There was no numbered bracelet system, no 'Optimum' pricing, no $10 Molson Ex... No lights show was seen, no U2 or Gnarls Barkley heard, no player introductions made, but then none were needed... the moment Francis Bouillon and Josh Gorges set skate to ice, a few hundred fans at the Sportplexe 4-Glaces in Pierrefonds burst into the season's first true 'Go HABS Go' chant.
Many (myself included) arrived hours in advance, early on a sunny Saturday morning in the middle of September, just to secure a view of training camp's first skating and team drills. Finding a seat among the three rows lining one length of the primary practice rink meant a painfully long wait on an ice cold bench, time seemingly slowing like the flow of blood to my toes.
A noticeable tension filled the air prior to this public debut, everybody in attendance wrought with anticipation of a season saturated with potential. Men and women, boys and girls of all colours, creeds and languages gathered, all connected by the place in their hearts they hold for the tricoloured crest of the 'CH'.
Daily sports sections and 'Season Preview' hockey magazines in hand, camera flashes abound, and the tell-tale chatter of a hockey season around the corner, the fans in Pierrefonds were wholly appreciative of the conclusion of an off-season that carried on just a little too long.
There were no rioters, no boo-birds, no stirring of controversy where none is merited... only unconditional support, hope, and faith.
These are the true fans of the Montreal Canadiens.