Before even reaching Canada, we had another overlying story to contend with this year. My brother joining me on the trip, Eric, had a leg infection discovered the day before and with the potential serious impacts that can result with spread or evolution of infections, at the first sign of a fever, we were out of Canada and into a hospital. Thankfully we made it thru both days as the leg healed and antibiotics helped the wound tolerable to walk on.
Aside from a constant rain in upstate NY, it was an uneventful ride, while the hilarious AutoRap app created the entertainment until arriving in Kingston. Once in the Limestone City, I got a first taste of winter with temps in the 30s, which is exceptionally cold when you are used to the mild temps of the prior season. We parked along Brock Street and grabbed lunch at the Golden Rooster Deli before fighting thru the biting wind to see the city. With a low skyline, the downtown is full of historic buildings, many of them filled with an eclectic mix of great restaurants. After getting some outdoor pictures of the nearby arena, we walked past the striking City Hall, down Ontario Street to the Great Lakes Maritime Museum. Though met with a strong sense of boredom by Eric, we checked out the very thorough and descriptive museum, which displayed everything marine oriented. Good for anyone with a strong interest in that, but it was a little dry even for me. I wanted to check out the Original Hockey Hall of Fame, but they are rebuilding and just have a few displays in their far away location.
Dinner was at Harper’s Burger Bar and then we walked to the Rogers K-Rock Centre, the only sports facility I know with the shameful double advertisement as Rogers bought the radio station, just like everything else it is snatching in Canada. The building rates very well and is overall nice with little touches that make it more appealing, like the hints of limestone and the nearby remnants of the original Fort Frontenac. Inside, the concourse features a Kingston Sports Hall of Fame, which includes Don Cherry as a member. A fairly standard oval bowl circles the rink, while at the top is a nice walk around feature for standing and drink rails. Festivities for Remembrance Day were quite touching before the game and a decent crowd was there for the event. The Frontenacs were not able to put on a good show as they were sloppy, lethargic and offensively challenged. North Bay opened the scoring in a rather dull game with a goal by Nick Paul at 11:21 of the 2nd. The killer was a PP goal with just 3.4 seconds left and the Battalion were in control as they led the shot total 22-13. By the way, those North Bay uniforms are hideous and I can’t believe they kept Brampton’s nickname when the franchise moved. Anyway, a pair of bad Kingston penalties led to another North Bay goal and it wasn’t until this point (halfway thru the 3rd) that the Frontenacs woke up. Spencer Watson finally scored with a little more than three minutes left and they were close to getting a second. Alas, North Bay added an empty netter and won 4-1. Overall, a decent arena in an even better location with a downtown worth spending some time before or after a game.
Montreal was a three hour drive away and we left around 8 AM. It’s interesting how as you go further east in Ontario, the road signs are both French and English, yet the second you reach Quebec, any English in the signs disappear. The people however are very helpful in Southern Quebec with the language and it amazes me how bilingual Montreal is. The first stop was Mont Royal, where I led Eric in the wrong direction before getting us to the Chalet and the amazing overlook of the entire city. We scored parking for the day at a modest $10 in Place Bonaventure, a shopping/office complex that included our hotel. Getting out of the area was a maze as we looked like bumbling idiots trying to get out.
After reaching daylight, it was a decent walk to Old Montreal for lunch and some walking thru the historic streets. We saw the Basilica Notre Dame and Jacques-Cartier Place before making another long walk to the Bell Centre. I’ve read about Montreal’s Underground City and the miles of climate-controlled tunnels but where is it? Without finding an entrance, we walked in the cold and finally reached the ugly building late afternoon. The Bell Centre is such a blah brick building and there is a ton of construction around it. We spent time first at the wonderful Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fame before going inside. My second time here and I still am not a fan of this place. It is too big and the only quasi-affordable seats in the upper-deck are ridiculously high up. Lots of obstructions block the rafters/scoreboard view from the 400 seats, along with really dark lighting. Now the atmosphere is another story as this is the Canadiens’ best feature with loud fans filling the arena with cheers and chants like “Go Habs Go” and “Ole”. Montreal also knows how to do ceremonies and I felt honored to be there on a night that Guy Lapointe saw his number retired. It was very classy and well-done. The pre-game intro was great too, but nothing like the one they were doing in the playoffs last year. After a slow start, a Brendan Gallagher blast gave the Canadiens the lead in the second period. Minnesota tied it up five minutes later, but a goal by Lars Eller with 50 seconds left in the period gave Montreal back the lead and then they scored a pair in the third as the crowd really started enjoying their Saturday Night. By a slight margin, old MSG was louder during a regular season game I saw, but this was close. One more walk to the hotel finished off 5.5 miles of walking on the day (whoops forgot Eric was on a bad leg). It was a tiring, but fun trip and look for a Kingston review late in the week and a Stadium Journey Bell Centre update later on.