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From Nashville to Montreal to Ottawa: Which NHL fans are the best?

06/28/2017 – Ask any hockey fan which team has the best fans, and they’ll tell you it’s the “insert local team here.”  But, for those who can put aside their biases, all the attention this year fell on the fans of the Nashville Predators (‘Preds).

The bottom seeded Predators were out to make a statement from the first puck drop of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and their fans made sure to put the exclamation point on it. The ‘Preds started their post season run at The United Center in Chicago, a.k.a. as ‘Madhouse on Madison’.

NASHVILLE: Game one between the ‘Preds and the Blackhawks was relatively uneventful, with Nashville taking a 1-0 win. Then, the ‘Preds kicked it up a notch in game two, tallying five unanswered goals, while goaltender Pekka Rinne continued to shut down Chicago’s superstar studded lineup. With two huge wins on the road, the ‘Preds returned home to an electrified crowd, and the fans never let up during the rest of their historic playoff run. Although the ‘Preds ultimately came up short, the fans put on a show that rivaled the team itself. Nashville’s fans quickly garnered a reputation for being one of the rowdiest bunches in the league — throwing of catfish on the ice, the smashing of cars painted with the opposing team’s logos, constant live music performances, and nearly record breaking sound levels for an indoor arena. But how do they stand up to the reigning kings of hockey fandom north of the border?

I’ve had the pleasure of attending NHL games at many different arenas over the years, but it is hard to describe the intensity and atmosphere of the Bell Centre in Montreal. This year I got to witness the Montreal Canadiens (‘Habs) take on the New York Rangers in round one of the playoffs, and the love these fans have for their team is unfathomable. My friend and I arrived at the Bell Centre for game one, and immediately realized that we would have to cover up his Rangers jersey for safety reasons.

MONTREAL: We were followed with jeers and boos and some choice words in French, wherever we were.

Walking around the Bell Centre before was quite an experience — as the place is surrounded by statues of famous players, plaques, memorials, and a brick walkway engraved with the names former players  — all of which are majestic.

‘Habs fans are notorious for being some of the loudest and rowdiest fans in the NHL. My friend and I were taunted boos right upon entering the arena, until we had the good sense to hide any evidence that we supported a team other than the ‘Habs. We were treated to another sight as we got to our seats — a display that said the light show would be incredible, which it was. As the spectacular show came to a close, the video projected fire spread across the entire ice igniting the famous “GO HABS GO” chant, which erupted form the crowd as they waved white playoff towels wildly through the air.

Like any other hockey game, the chants went on throughout the course of the game whenever the crowed felt their team needed a boost, and even in defeat the fans kept chanting as the seconds counted down and the siren signaled the end of the game. The intensity of the entire experience was undeniable, and it was easy for me to see where the ‘Habs fans got their reputation.

           

OTTAWA: Following the Rangers’ series win against Montreal, my friend and I traveled to Ottawa, CA to witness the next series unfold at the Canadian Tire Centre. The atmosphere in Ottawa was a complete shift from Montreal. When we arrived there were a lot more Rangers fans and no need to cover your jersey. The Senators (‘Sens) fans would welcome you with open arms, happy to show off their arena to visiting fans. Just outside the front entrance to the arena were all kinds of fun events and games for kids and adult fans alike. They had face painting booths, a place to take pictures with a painting of the team, and a giant blow up Stanley Cup.

Despite the warm welcome, there was no love for the Rangers fans once the puck dropped. The chant went up; “GO SENS GO” and it felt like it would never stop. Though perhaps not as loud as the chants back in Montreal, the Sens fans were relentless, continuing to chant long after the game was over as they filed out of the arena, mixing it up with the occasional “We Want the Cup.”

There’s no denying that the spectacle in Nashville stole the show this year, and it is hard to argue that they weren’t the most extreme fans of any team this playoff season. Though it remains to be seen if this is the new norm, or just a reaction to their team’s first major playoff run. For my part, it is hard to top the atmosphere in Montreal and Ottawa overall. Year in and year out these fans are used to seeing their teams in the playoffs, and yet the energy level shows no sign of fatigue. There may be some new kids on the block, but for now, nobody does playoff hockey quite like Canada.

 

 

 

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