It was sort of a no-brainer that my first trip would be to Boston. The Bruins and Canadiens share a rivalry going back decades, and I’d been wanting to go back since I visited that beautiful city when I was 18.
For this trip, I was accompanied by my girlfriend Danielle, and our friends Bruno and Gina. I had scored great tickets on StubHub (2 rows above the Zamboni entrance) for what I thought was a very good price of 110$ / ticket (these would have been more expensive in Montreal). But when I received them, I saw they had a face value of 67$! That’s one advantage of living in one of the most expensive hockey markets: everywhere else feels like a bargain!
We set off by car early in the morning so we’d get to Boston early and have time to see the sights. As we reached the Philipsburg/St-Armand crossing, we prepared our passports and readied ourselves for the usual questions. The line up was short, and our turn came quickly. Crossing into the US from Canada by land is usually very easy, but in the post 9/11 world, you never know what to expect.
And the custom agent asked us a question we hadn’t heard before: “Has any of you had a medical procedure recently?” With a puzzled tone, we all said “no”. All four of us are fully bilingual, but to us a procedure was an operation. Danielle feebly said in the back “well, I had a scan done 2 weeks ago” but we all told her that was not the same thing.
The custom agent asked us to park near the building and go in. Oh oh, what’s going on here? We did as instructed and sat down waiting for someone to talk to us. Bruno remembered he’d left his money in the unlocked car, so he got up to go retrieve it only to be sternly told by the desk agent to “Sit down, sir!” These guys were serious, but we hadn’t done anything wrong. I know the rivalry with Boston is strong: would Bruins fans in the Border agency hold us up on purpose? Nah, that couldn’t happen. Could it?
They took the car in, and took Gina away to another room. Finally, the desk agent turned to us and said “Do you know why we pulled you out?” When we answered that we had no idea, he told us we had tripped the radiation detector. They thought we were smuggling in a bomb! That’s when Danielle chipped in and said “I had a nuclear scan two weeks ago”
And we got a dressing down from the agent for not answering yes when asked if any one of us had a procedure. We played it dumb: 4 frenchies crossing over to the States, who did not understand the meaning of procedure. You see, apparently when you get one of these scans, it is detectable for up to 6 months! They scanned Danielle, came to the conclusion that she wasn’t a human dirty bomb intent on blowing up half of New England, and told us we could be on our way. Danielle tried to cheer up the process by going “Go Habs Go!” after the agent asked us where we were going. At the same time we all realized that despite being closer to Montreal than Boston, a US Custom Agent was probably a Bruins fan, so that might not have been the best approach. But the agent cracked half a smile (a quarter, really) and said, undertone, “Yeah, I’m a Habs fan too.” Phew!
So we were on our way. Lesson learned: always give all the information to custom agents, even if it seems insignificant. Now as we approached the border into New Hampshire, there was a long line up of cars, which was strange as there is no interstate control. Turns out the state police was stopping every car! Did the custom agents change their mind? Was the police on the look out for four mild-mannered Habs fans? But a flash of our passports and a statement of our destination was sufficient for the officer who sent us on our way. We never did find out who they were looking for though…
We got to Boston safely and set off to see the sights. Boston is a beautiful city from the early days of the United States, the fall colours suited it well.
Our hotel was on the southern part of the city and we decided to take a cab to the TD Garden. I’ve been told that the rivalry between Boston and Montreal is so strong that a car with Quebec licence plates runs a serious risk of being vandalized if you parked at the arena. Good thing we didn’t! Our cab dropped us a block away because of traffic, and on the way over we could see that rivalry “in the flesh”. Fans clad in Bruins gear chanted “Habs suck!” and one guy was even selling t-shirts with that slogan! (I should have bought one for shits and giggles)
The TD Garden is a very nice, modern arena. I was particularly impressed by the large corridors that let the human traffic flow freely. Over priced hotdogs and beers are the norm, and the prices rivaled those in Montreal. As we walked in, we were handed a poster specifically for this game. A Bruins player is featured, and for this game they chose former Habs Steve Bégin. Nice touch! I loved this idea of the posters; I hope they’re still doing it. Sure, for the season ticket holders, it means nothing, but for the person who goes once in a while, it’s a nice memento. As it turned out, that game was the 700th time these two teams met in regular season. Too bad the poster made no mention of it. As we made our way through the corridors to our seats, I received knowing glances from other fans dressed up in Habs gear. One guy even gave me a hug, which was probably a little too much solidarity for my taste. 🙂 I saw none of the loutish behaviour I’ve been told to expect from Bruins fans, to be honest. Of course it was early in the season, and the Bruins had been shutout the last 2 games, so the fans were a little down on their favourite team.
The game itself was OK. Habs took the lead late in the first period with a game by 3rd liner Glen Metropolit. They kept the lead until Patrice Bergeron tied the score with 52 seconds left in the 3rd. And the place erupted. The fans had had nothing to cheer about for 3 games, so that last minute effort brought everyone to their feet, cheering and clapping. Up until then, I didn’t feel I was too deep in enemy territory. But with that goal, the mood was visibly altered in an instant. Now the fans were ready to pounce. We had shown our allegiance with impunity, but now they wanted to let us know we were in THEIR house.
I must admit I was puzzled by how the crowd reacted to the announcement of the goal. The announcer went something like “Bruins goal, scored by number 37, PATRICE BERGERON!” and the crowd erupted into chants of “USA! USA! USA!” Now I understand this is a USA vs Canada thing, and the Americans like to show their patriotism on their sleeves. Fine. But Patrice Bergeron is from Quebec City, Canada, and has a french name. Isn’t that a weird moment to go into chest beating mode? It seems to me that a “Let’s go Bruins” chant would have been more appropriate.
The game went into overtime, and then into shootout. Goalie Carey Price stoned all three Bruins shooter, while Michael Cammalleri scored the lone goal for Montreal, bringing in the win for our boys. (Boston would, a few years later, be the scene of Cammalleri’s bizarre mid-game trade to the Calgary Flames)
You can see the game’s boxscore by clicking here.
We got back to our hotel without any incident, and the day after, after some more sightseeing, we headed back home. My first away game. 28 left to go.