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The Trip of My Life
By Mitchell P., Grade 12, Fredericton High, Fredericton, NB

When I was in grade five I went to Walt Disney World in Florida for March break. I had an amazing time going on all the rides and staying at a Walt Disney World Resort. In the short time I had been on the earth, it was the greatest time I had ever had. Over the years I've also been to six Nascar Nextel Cup auto races, and they were the first big time sporting events I had ever been to. The first time you hear the engines roar and see the cars go by at 180 mph is just awesome. As great as these trips were, up to this point in my life the greatest time I've ever had was my trip to Montreal to see a Montreal Canadiens hockey game this past March.

Last year when I was in grade eleven, myself and two guys I hang around with, Greg Conners, and Braden Murray, almost joking around, came up with the idea that we should go see a hockey game in Montreal. For a long time we never actually thought that we were going to go to Montreal, but as the year went on we thought more and more seriously about it. By the end of the year we were certain that we were going to find a way to go, even writing about it in each other's yearbooks. At the start of grade twelve we were really excited because we knew the trip wasn't just talk anymore. That's when we learned about this package trip that another guy we knew in grade twelve, Matt Mahoney, who happens to be a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, was going on. So we got a booklet from the company that puts the trip on, McGinn Travel and Tours. Tom McGinn who owns and runs the company is a Canadiens fan, and has two trips to Montreal every year. The two trips were a "Super" Original Six Weekend trip January 30 - February 2, 2004, which was a game between the Boston Bruins at the Montreal Canadiens and/or the Chicago Black Hawks at the Canadiens. The other trip, the one the three of us wanted to go on, and the one Matt Mahoney and his Dad were going on, was the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Canadiens from March 12-14, 2004. The trip included motorcoach transportation, 2 nights accommodation at the Holiday Inn Midtown, Red 100 level seats to the game, full breakfast each morning and an optional Bell Centre tour for $458.85 apiece, which was the triple package. It would have cost $699.85 for just one of us to go on the single package. After asking our parents, we decided that we were going to go on the trip. We went and paid the $200/person deposit in late November, with Greg paying the full price at that time. Braden and myself paid the balance 5 days before it was due, which was 30 days prior to the trip. Braden's and Greg's parents paid for half the trip, while I was able to get my parents to pay for the entire trip as a Christmas gift, including $220 spending money.

As March 12th came closer, it became harder and harder to believe that the three of us were actually going on a trip to Montreal. Even though we were going with 2 busloads full of people, it was kind of cool that we weren't going with our parents. It was like saying we weren't little kids anymore and we would be fine by ourselves on the streets at night, even though it's a huge city with a very large population.

We departed for Montreal from the Fredericton Exhibition Grounds on March 12th at 7:45 am, with only an 11-hour bus ride ahead of us. It actually wasn't that bad of a bus ride once we got past as far as I had ever travelled before. I had taken 10 CD's with me to listen to on the trip, although I only got through 4 of them on the way to Montreal. About two hours into the trip we watched the first, of a total of 6 movies that we watched on the way there and back. We stopped for lunch, and made about four or five 15-minute stops each way. The breaks were very welcomed, as although the seats were comfy there wasn't much leg space, so it felt really good to get off the bus for a while to stretch.

We arrived in Montreal at 6:00 p.m. Montreal time. We drove by Olympic Stadium, went on a bridge over the site where they had held the World's Fair, and drove by the Molson office building and brewery. We then arrived at our hotel, and since we had already been checked in all we had to do was get our room cards, as all the work had been done for us. After putting our bags in our room, Braden, Greg and I went out for something to eat. Walking around the city we realized how big it actually was, and it didn't take long for us to ask for directions.

For the most part, the people were nice, really willing to help us out, but the drivers were insane. It was like they always had the right-of-way. If someone tried to walk without the walk sign, the drivers would just lay on the horn, without putting on the brakes. I don't see how a car could get stopped in time if a pedestrian just kept on walking", said Braden. He also added that he thought the city, while very nice, was really dirty, with garbage flying around everywhere.

It was really dirty, and in between the nice streets like St. Catherines, and Sherbrooke Street, there were a lot of run down streets, with old run-down buildings that had graffiti on them. They looked like the type of streets you didn't want to be alone on at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast then went with Tom McGinn and a large group of people on the tour of the Bell Centre. The Bell Centre is one of the newer arenas in the hockey league, being only 6 or 7 years old, so it is one of the nicest. It also has the largest seating capacity in the entire league, with seats for 21,273 screaming fans. We were able to see both teams practice for a while, and George Gillette Jr., the owner of the Canadiens, came and talked to us, which our tour guide said he had never done before. The best part about the tour though, was the places in the arena we got to go to. We went up 100 or more feet above the ice surface almost to the rafters, to this sort of track that went the entire way around the arena. Our guide said it was for the press to sit and watch the game and write a story. We also went to many other rooms including the wives' room and the pressroom, which is actually much smaller than it appears on TV, because the background is curved to create that illusion. We also got to go see the large luxury suites, which can fit a maximum of 22 people and cost $5,000 a game. We took a walk through the dressing rooms that singers and bands use when they come to the Bell Centre to perform, but the most interesting room we went to was what I call the Hall of Fame room. The room is for former Canadien greats to come and talk to each other, get a drink, or watch the game. There are pictures all over the walls showing great moments in Canadien's history. There was one area that had pictures of all the Hall of Fame Canadiens and some of their achievements. It was just amazing to think that I was in a room where greats like Maurice Richard, Jean Belliveau and Guy LaFleur had been in, telling great Canadien's stories to each other.

For the rest of the day we mostly just walked around the city, looking at our watches every half hour to see how much closer game time was. As the afternoon went on, the buzz in the city became louder and louder for hockey's greatest and oldest rivalry. Matt Mahoney was amazed with how intense the atmosphere was. "It was so amazing, people were walking around with Leaf's and Canadien's jerseys on in large groups, yelling at each other, holding up signs and painting themselves in their team's colors. There were also a lot of cars going around with flags on them, and the drivers honking their horns or chanting out slogans like Go Habs Go, or Go Leafs Go. It was one of the most intense things I had ever seen", said Matt.

Braden, Greg and I felt like we needed to get involved also, so we rushed back to our hotel and got our jerseys we had brought with us. Earlier in the day I had bought a Habs vintage jersey at the Bell Centre so I decided to put that on, and even though Braden is an Ottawa Senators fan he hates the Leafs, so he put on my other Canadien's jersey, and now all three of us were ready to cheer on the Habs.

The three of us arrived at the Bell Centre at around 4:15 p.m., only problem was they didn't open the doors until 5:00 p.m. When we got there, there were probably only 10 other people at the Bell Centre, and then another 10 scalpers. They let us through the doors after 45 minutes of waiting, and we went right to our seats. It was just so awesome, sitting their with the lights down low and the amazing light track half-way up the arena running all the way around it. It was so bright it could light up the entire arena, and when it turned red the entire place lit up red.

The game started shortly after 7:00 p.m., but the fans got into it before that. As the Leafs came onto the ice, all the Leaf fans stood up and cheered, but that was soon drowned out by boos from us Canadien fans. Then when the Habs came out, the place just went absolutely crazy as their fans cheered them on, and just as they were about to drop the puck, the place erupted into a chant of "Go Habs Go".

The game itself was great, but there was one thing that was kind of hard to get use to - every 15 minutes there was a T.V. time out. The players would go over to their benches and just wait there for two minutes while 3 guys would skate onto the ice with shovels, and scoop up any ice that had gathered up around the nets or along the boards. Besides that, the game was amazing. I don't think we could have picked a better game to go to. The Leafs vs. the Canadiens, chants of "Go Leafs Go" and "Go Habs Go", fans yelling at each other. The momentum went back and forth the entire game with the Leafs having leads of 2-1 and 3-2, but the Canadiens would not be denied in front of their home crowd. Just a couple of minutes into the third period, the Habs scored to tie the game at 3 apiece. Then with nine and a half minutes left, Canadiens' right winger, Richard Zednik scores a one-timer from the slot to give the Canadiens a 4-3 lead. With about one minute left in the game, the Canadien fans broke into their victory song, as the Habs held on for the win.

After the game, out on the streets the craziness continued, as thousands of people broke into a "Go Habs Go" chant. Walking up St. Catherine's street people were screaming with joy and honking their horns, it was just so intense.

After yelling at Leaf fans for a little while longer, in true Saturday night style, we went back to the hotel, ordered a pizza and watched game 2 of the double header.

We left for home the next morning at 9:00 a.m. It was a long drive back and it was kind of disappointing that it was all behind me, but I was glad I had at least had the experience, and I would be able to brag to everyone the next day at school.

This trip was an absolutely amazing experience, and even though I've been to every kid's dream place in Walt Disney World, and to 5 Nascar races, which is another one of my favorite sports, I would have to say that this was the trip of my life!


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