Amid all the pomp and circumstance of Wednesday's announcement of the Canadiens plans for the centennial, I feel the most important announcement of them all got a little lost.
No, not the new gargantuan scoreboard at the Bell Centre, or the 10 million loonies that will be tattooed with the CH, or the postage stamp, or even the Monopoly game.
The coolest thing the Canadiens announced Wednesday was the construction of a state-of-the-art outdoor hockey rink in St-Michel, the first of five that will be built in the city over the next five years thanks to the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation.
This is not just your everyday, run-of-the-mill shinny park, it is a $500,000 facility with its own refrigeration system, ensuring good ice from November to March. Good shinny ice in the city has become harder and harder to find as our winters have gotten progressively warmer (something about greenhouse gases and global warming, you may have heard some people ranting about it recently). Not only that, but in the summer there will be a rubberized playing surface on the rink for basketball or street hockey, making it useful year-round. Choosing St-Michel, an area riddled with poverty and crime, is the cherry on the sundae because the rink is going where it's needed most.
This gesture was not necessary, the Canadiens could have easily focused the entirety of their centennial celebrations on themselves and no one would have batted an eye. As it is, it appears the merchandising machine will be running full steam ahead throughout the next two seasons, so the Habs will cash in on the milestone. But doing something like this, something that is quite frankly sorely needed in the city, is something that should be given its fair amount of credit.
The Canadiens are so popular, so ingrained into the culture of this province, that the organization can often come off as cold and distant. From a journalist's perspective, I often say that covering the Habs is akin to covering the White House, just in the way information is controlled and sifted with a fine-toothed comb.
The team, even when it's bad, is guaranteed to succeed at the box office, in TV ratings, at the concession stands, in merchandising, everything. So there is no public relations incentive for making such a gesture.
The only incentives evident here are good faith and community awareness.