Today I went to the grocery store and in the lineup ahead of me were two guys; one wearing a Habs jacket, the other a Bruins cap. They eyed each other a couple of times, then sheepishly nodded, smiled and started to talk about the Centennial game. The funny thing was, they never talked about who won or lost at all. They were enthusing about the ceremony and the night itself. "Did you see the crowd when Roy skated out?" "Did you see Dryden take shots?" "It was pretty cool when Savard, Robinson and Lapointe were all out there together." "Good old Knuckles." "How about Naslund? He burned our team so often!"
The night was perfect because it wasn't just about the Habs. It was about hockey and how the game has survived the trials and tribulations of decades to become the national passion it is now. Watching the men who helped build the game and make us love it was appealing to all fans, whether they love or hate the Canadiens on ordinary nights. It reminded me of the famous Christmas Eve truce in the WWI trenches when peace between warring factions held sway for one special evening.
There were so many perfect moments, but the ones that stood out for me included:
-Eddy Palchak coming out with the bucket of pucks as though he did it yesterday.
-Patrick Roy leading the team out, then the moment of shock when the crowd realized who it was, followed by the massive standing ovation.
-Roy's CBC interview, in which he told Ron McLean he had to squeeze his older face into the mask.
-Butch Bouchard and Elmer Lach clutching each other's hands as the crowd's cheering swelled to a crescendo.
-The O'Byrne gesture, removing his sweater just as the Bouchard banner hit the rafters.
-Cammalleri, Metropolit and two or three others hanging out in the tunnel from the dressing room in shorts and t-shirts, watching the video highlight tributes.
-The team picture. (I HAVE to get a copy of that!)
-Jaro Halak waiting by the gate until Patrick Roy came by, then waylaying him for a quick word.
-Mike Cammalleri riding the wave of emotion during the ovation after his hat-trick goal, and just mouthing, "Wow."
-Metropolit's joy after scoring for his favourite team on its most special night.
-The gesture at the end, when all the players gathered at centre ice and acknowledged the fans.
It was a perfect night. For the Habs, for hockey and for us.