HAMILTON, ON. — While it is absolutely true that I am a Montreal Canadiens fan, I am first and foremost a hockey fan. Being a university student and therefore largely on a budget, as well as living in Hamilton, visiting the Bell Centre in Montreal for a game just isn’t possible for me at this point.
I have gone to school now in Hamilton for three years and it was not until this season that I finally decided to check out a Bulldogs game. I went earlier this year with a friend and had a good time, but decided to check out some playoff hockey. It was game two of the Eastern Conference Final against the Kingston Frontenacs. Instead of bringing a group of friends and going for the experience with them, I decided to go alone and just enjoy the game I love.
When I first showed up at the FirstOntario Centre, I was in the front of the line to meet Hamilton-native, and current Phoenix Coyotes player, Zac Rinaldo. He seems like a nice guy, but of course poked fun at the fact that I am a Canadiens’ fan – likely partly due to the fact that he spent some time playing for the Boston Bruins.
After meeting Rinaldo, I decided I would go check out some Bulldogs’ apparel so I wouldn’t look out of place in my pink shirt in the sea of black and gold. The team had playoff t-shirts available for $10 apiece, and for that price, I couldn’t turn it down.
Next on my list of things to do was to find my seat. I was fortunate enough to score a great seat because I was going alone, and therefore was not limited to the places where two or more seats were available together.
I was seated right behind Kingston’s bench. I felt so close to the action. I was seated directly behind their bench and on either side of me were Frontenac fans. So there I was in a Bulldogs shirt, surrounded by Frontenac fans, players, and coaches.
Being a Habs fan in Leafs land, I am used to feeling out of place as a hockey fan, but as the arena began to fill up, I realized I was not out of place at all. As the starting line-up was announced, and the Bulldogs took to the ice, it became very evident why people call it home crowd advantage.
That excitement could not have prepared me for the way the building erupted when the Bulldogs scored. It was as if the whole crowd had been electrified. There was smoke coming from the jumbotron and the whole arena was chanting “Go Dogs Go!”
The Bulldogs scored five goals on 14 shots and came out of the first period with a 5-0 lead. It seemed twenty minutes into the game, that you could already almost count Kingston out of it.
As hockey fans though, we know better. When it comes to the playoffs, anything can happen. Even the impossible can be accomplished.
Unfortunately for the Frontenacs, they did not make the comeback and the only goal they scored came in the second period. Heading into the third, the Bulldogs had a 5-1 lead. During the third, this lead only increased. The final score ended up 7-1 in favour of Hamilton. This win gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 series lead over Kingston.
Although I had a wonderful time watching the game as a Hamilton Bulldogs’ fan, I was also excited as a Montreal Canadiens fan. Watching the 70th overall pick from the 2016 NHL draft, Will Bitten, gave me something to be hopeful about.
Bitten is a Canadiens’ prospect and a lethal two-way player. Prior to Friday night’s game, he had gone eight games without a goal and you can tell he was getting hungry for one. Just past the midway point in the first period, Bitten scored a beautiful goal that gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
Overall, my experience in my first OHL playoff game was an awesome one. If you have not yet taken in the contagious atmosphere that fills the OHL arena at this time of the year, I highly recommend it. Besides, it offers some high quality hockey for a cheap ticket price.