I guess it never occurred to him that, for all his game-fixing, he's only been able to get the Rangers one Cup, and that was 19 years ago.
So the Devils are eliminated from Playoff competition. Well done, Commissioner, you prick.
The Devils' played last night, home to the Montreal Canadiens, winning 3-2. The Canadiens are still the most successful team in hockey history, winning 24 Stanley Cups -- but none since 1993. That was in Bettman's first season as Commissioner, and he's never let another Canadian team win the Cup. Canadian teams have gone 0-for-5 in Finals since: Vancouver lost in 1994 and 2011, Calgary in 2004, Edmonton in 2006 and Ottawa in 2007, with all but the Ottawa loss, a 5-game flop with the Senators having nothing against the Anaheim Ducks, being very, very fishy.
The Montreal Alouettes have won Canada's Super Bowl, the Grey Cup, 7 times, including back-to-back Canadian Football League titles in 2009 and '10.
As it happens, as I type this, a soccer "derby" is taking place, between the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, for the Canadian Championship, albeit in Toronto.
The Montreal Expos, however, no longer exist. They played from 1969 to 2004, before moving to Washington to become the Nationals. Their only 1st-place finishes were in strike-shortened seasons, 1981 and 1994. The first time, they lost a deciding game to the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose owners Walter and then Peter O'Malley owned Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, lock, stock and bad suit. Then the Expos had the best record in baseball when the Strike of '94 hit, and Commissioner Bud Selig, himself a team owner (the Milwaukee Brewers), canceled the rest of the season, including the postseason. Conspiracy, anyone?
What was it like to see an Expos game? I reached into my archives, and found this post, from April 7, 2004, just as a new season was about to begin, with the Mets heading up there the following weekend.
(Not really, I didn't start this blog until 2007. Humor me.)
Being in a foreign country has its particular challenges -- and, yes, for all its similarities to America, Canada is still a foreign country. The French influence will make it more foreign even than Toronto, the only city and metropolitan area in Canada with more people. But, with 1.6 million people, Montreal has more people than any American city except New York, Los Angeles and Houston.
There are 3.8 million people in the metro area, so, despite the large population within the city limits, it's a smaller market than every Major League Baseball city except the following: Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Denver, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Kansas City. And then there's the exchange rate, which largely favors the U.S. Then there's the taxes, which these now-rich ballplayers don't want to pay. And if the Expos should ever overcome their current doldrums and make the Playoffs again, that will hammer the U.S. TV ratings. No wonder Commissioner Bud Selig doesn't want a team in Montreal, and has been trying to get them moved to Washington.
(Update: The exchange rate between the two countries did heavily favor the U.S. in 2004, but after a second term of George W. Bush, the dollar lost a lot of value, and the two countries' dollars are now roughly equal.)
Before You Go. Make sure you call your bank and tell them you’re going. After all, Canada may be an English-speaking country (at least co-officially, with French, although Quebec is French-first), and a democracy (if a parliamentary one), and a country with Major League Baseball, but it is still a foreign country. If your bank gets a record of your ATM card making a withdrawal from any country other than the U.S., it may freeze the card, and any other accounts you may have with them. So be sure to let them know that you will, in fact, be in Canada for a little while.
You should have a valid, up-to-date passport, but it is not required. If you don't have a valid passport, you will need a valid photo ID and a copy of your birth certificate. This is not something you want to mess with. Canadian Customs officials do not fuck around: They care about their national security, too.
(Update: As of June 1, 2009, you DO need a passport to cross the U.S.-Canadian border.)
Do yourself another big favor: Change your money before you go. There are plenty of currency exchanges in New York City, including one on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.
Leave yourself $50 in U.S. cash, especially if you’re going other than by plane, so you’ll have cash on your side of the border. I was actually in Montreal on the day when it most favored the U.S.: January 18, 2002, 1.60 to 1.00 in our favor. However, now, in 2004, while the rate does still favor us, it's not nearly as much to our advantage as it was.
(Update: As I said before, the two countries' dollars are now roughly equal.)
The multi-colored bill were confusing on my first visit, although we have those now, too. The $5 is blue, and features Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister 1896-1911). The $10 is purple, and features John A. Macdonald (the 1st Prime Minister, 1867-1873 and again 1878-1891, essentially he’s their George Washington without having fought a war for independence). The $20 is green, and features the nation’s head of state, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. The $50 is red, and features William Lyon Mackenzie King (the longest-serving Prime Minister, 1921-1926, 1926-1930, 1935-1948, including World War II). And the $100 is yellow, and features Robert Borden (Prime Minister 1911-1920, including World War I).
The tricky part is going to be the coins – and you’ll thank me for telling you this, but keep your U.S. coins and your Canadian coins separate, for the simple reason that their penny, nickel, dime and quarter are all the same colors and just about the same size as our respective coins. (To make matters more confusing, as we recently did with our States, they had a Provincial quarter series.)
All coins have Queen Elizabeth’s portrait on the front, but she’s been Queen since 1952, and depending on how old the coin is, you might get a young woman, or her current 78-year-old self, or anything in between. You might even get a penny or a nickel old enough to feature her father, King George VI. Such a coin is still legal tender, however.
They have a $1 coin, copper-colored, bigger than a quarter, and 11-sided, with a bird on the back. This bird is a loon – not to be confused with the people lunatic enough to buy Maple Leafs season tickets. The coin is thus called the “loonie,” although they don’t say “ten loonies”: They use “buck” for “dollar” the way we would. In fact, the term is connected to Canada: Their first English settlers were the Hudson’s Bay Company, and they set the value of a dollar to the price of the pelt of a male beaver, the male of the species being called, as are those of a deer and a rabbit, a buck. (And the female, a doe.) The nation’s French-speakers (Francophones) use the French word for loon, and call it a “huard,” but since the Montreal Expos are gone, you probably won’t hear that term unless you’re a hockey fan and go to see the Rangers, Devils or Islanders in Montreal – or maybe Ottawa, which is on the Ontario-Quebec border and has a lot of French-first-speakers.
Then there’s the $2 coin, or “toonie.” It’s not just two dollars, it’s two-toned, and even two-piece. It’s got a copper center, with the Queen on the front and a polar bear on the back, and a nickel ring around it. This coin is about the size of the Eisenhower silver dollars we used to have. This is the coin that drives me bonkers when I’m up there.
My suggestion is that, when you first get your money changed before you begin your trip, ask for $1 coins but no $2 coins. It’s just simpler. I like Canada a lot, but their money, yikes, eh?
This is Canada, the Great White North, so if you're going in April, it may still feel like winter, especially if the wind is blasting off Lake Ontario. So even though the Olympic Stadium roof is closed, you should pack a winter jacket. If you're going from May onward, even in late September, it will probably be warm enough to not bring any jacket, but bring a light one just in case.
Getting There. The best way is by plane. Air Canada runs flights out of Newark Liberty, John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia International Airport, and the flight takes about an hour and a half. Book on Air Canada today, and you can get a round-trip flight for around US$565. On an American carrier (including, but not necessarily, American Airlines), it will be closer to double that.
(Update: Round-trip, non-stop fare to Montreal on Air Canada will now run you over $1,200.)
Greyhound runs 5 buses a day from Port Authority Bus Terminal to Autobus Greyhound, at 1717 Rue Berri at Boulevard de Maisonneuve. (Countries in the British Commonwealth, including Canada, call a local bus a bus and an inter-city bus a “coach.”) The ride averages about 8 hours, and is $162 round-trip -- although an advance purchase can drop it to under $100. The terminal is big and clean, and you shouldn’t have any difficulties with it. It's got a stairway leading to the Berri-UQAM (University of Quebec at Montreal) Metro station.
(Update: It's now $226, but advance purchase can drop it to $124.)
Amtrak, however, runs just one train, the Adirondack, in each direction each day between New York and Montreal, in cooperation with Canada’s equivalent, VIA Rail. This train leaves Pennsylvania Station at 8:15 AM and arrives at Gare Centrale (Central Station) at 7:06 PM, a trip of 10 hours and 51 minutes. The return trip leaves Montreal at 9:30 AM and gets back to Penn Station at 8:35 PM. So if, for example (one that fits this upcoming series), you leave New York on a Friday morning for a weekend Mets-Expos-Jays series, you’ll only get in the Saturday game.
So, while Gare Centrale, bounded by Rue de la Gauchetiere, Rue University, Rue Belmont and Rue Mansfield, is in the heart of the city, taking Amtrak/VIA to Montreal is not particularly convenient. Especially since the Adirondack, with its views of the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, is one of Amtrak’s most popular routes, and it could sell out. If you still want to try it, it’s US$144 round-trip.
If you’re driving, it’s 367 miles from Times Square to downtown Montreal. Get into New Jersey to State Route 17, and take it all the way across the State Line to the New York State Thruway, Interstate 87. Remain on I-87 through Albany, after which it becomes the Adirondack Northway, all the way up to the border.
When you get to the border, you'll be asked your citizenship, and you'll have to show your passport and your photo ID. You'll be asked why you're visiting Canada. Seeing a Mets vs. Expos game, or even a hockey game between your favorite team and the Canadiens, probably won't (but might) get you a smart-aleck remark about how the Expos/Habs are going to win, but they won't keep you out of their country based on that alone.
If you're bringing a computer with you (counting a laptop, but probably not counting a smartphone), you don't have to mention it, but you probably should. Chances are, you won't be carrying a large amount of food or plants; if you were, depending on how much, you might have to declare them.
Chances are, you won't be bringing alcohol into the country, but you can bring in ONE of the following items duty-free, and anything above or in addition to this must have duty paid on it: 1.5 litres (53 ounces) of wine, or 8.5 litres (300 ounces or 9.375 quarts) of beer or ale, or 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of hard liquor. If you have the slightest suspicion that I'm getting any of these numbers wrong, check the Canada Customs website. Better yet, don't bring booze in. Or out.
As for tobacco, well, you shouldn't use it. But, either way over the border, you can bring up to 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and 200 grams (7 ounces) of manufactured tobacco. What you cannot bring from Canada back into the U.S. is Cuban-made cigars. They are still illegal to even possess in the U.S. So you need to note that President Obama hasn't had that law changed, or dropped the embargo against Cuba; if he is a Communist or a Socialist, that's yet another reason why he's not very good at it.
If you've got anything in your car (or, if going by bus or train) that could be considered a weapon, even if it's a disposable razor or nail clippers, tell them. And while Canada does have laws that allow you to bring in firearms if you're a licensed hunter (you'd have to apply for a license to the Province where you plan to hunt), the country has the proper attitude concerning guns: They hate them. They go absolutely batshit insane if you try to bring a firearm into their country. Which, if you're sane, is actually the sane way to treat the issue.
You think I'm being ridiculous? How about this: Seven of the 43 U.S. Presidents -- 9 counting the Roosevelts, Theodore after he was President and Franklin right before -- have faced assassins with guns, 6 got hit and 4 died; but none of the 21 people (including 1 woman) to serve as Prime Minister of Canada has ever faced an assassination attempt. John Lennon recorded "Give Peace a Chance" in Montreal and gave his first "solo concert" in Toronto, but he got shot and killed in New York. In fact, the next time I visit, I half-expect to see a bumper sticker that says, "GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE, AMERICANS WITH GUNS KILL PEOPLE."
(Update: It's now 44 Presidents, and 22 Prime Ministers.)
(Another note about weapons: I’m a fan of the TV show NCIS, which airs in Canada on Global Network TV. If you are also a fan of this show, and you usually observe Gibbs Rule Number 9, "Never go anywhere without a knife," this time, forget it, and leave it at home. If you really think you're going to need it -- as a tool -- mention the knife to the border guard, and show it to him, and tell him you have it to use as a tool in case of emergency, and that you do not plan to use it as a weapon. Do not mention the words "Rule Number 9" or quote said rule, or else he'll observe his Rule Number 1: Do not let this jackass into your country, eh?)
And if you can speak French, don't try to impress the Customs officials with it. The locals might appreciate that you're trying to speak to them in their primary language, but they won't be especially impressed by any ability to speak it, and any such ability won't make it any easier for you to get through Customs.
When crossing back into the U.S., in addition to what you would have to declare on the way in (if you still have any of it), you would have to declare items you purchased and are carrying with you upon return, items you bought in duty-free shops or (if you flew) on the plane, and items you intend to sell or use in your business, including business merchandise that you took out of the United States on your trip. There are other things, but, since you're just going for baseball, they probably won't apply to you. Just in case, check the Canadian Customs website I linked to above.
After going through Customs, I-87 will become Autoroute 15, which will take you right into the Montreal area. If you're going to a downtown hotel, take Exit 53 to Pont Champlain (the Champlain Bridge), which will take you to Autoroute 10, the Bonaventre Expressway, across the St. Lawrence River and right into downtown -- or, as they say, Centre-ville. If you're going only for the game, and going directly to the stadium, do not take the exit for the Champlain Bridge, but keep going, which will have you on Autoroute 20, and take Exit 8 for Pont Jacques-Cartier, across the river to Avenue de Lorimier. Turn right on Rue Sherbrooke, which will get you right to the stadium.
If you make 2 rest stops – I would recommend at or near Albany, and count Customs, where they will have a restroom and vending machines – and if you don’t do anything stupid at Customs, such as fail to produce your passport, or flash a weapon, or say you watch South Park (a show with a vendetta against Canada for some reason), or say anything unkind about the late Maurice "Rocket" Richard, the trip should take about 8 hours.
Though that could become 9, because Montreal traffic is pretty bad, though not as bad as Toronto, which is every bit as bad as traffic in New York, Boston and Washington. As Canada native (Regina, Saskatchewan) Leslie Nielsen would say, I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley: Toronto traffic is awful.
Once In the City. Montreal is one of the oldest cities in North America, founded by France in 1642. Seeing a big hill in the middle of the island will tell you where the name came from: "Mont Real," "Royal Mountain." In some instances, things in the city are spelled as "Mont Royal."
Since Canada is in the British Commonwealth, there are certain subtle differences. Every measurement will be in the metric system. Dates are written not as Month/Day/Year, as we do it, but as Day/Month/Year as in Britain and in Europe. So the series begins for us on "April 9, 2004" but for them on "9 April 2004." Not on 4/9, but on 9/4. They also follow British custom in writing time: A game starting at 7:05 PM would be listed as 1905. (Those of you who have served in the military, you will recognize this as, in the words of M*A*S*H's Lt. Col. Henry Blake, "all that hundred-hours stuff.")
And every word we would end with -or, they will end wit -our; and some (but not all) words that we would end with -er, they end with -re, as in "Rogers Centre." Every measurement will be in the metric system: Temperatures will be in Celsius, not Fahrenheit; distances will be in "kilometres" (including speed limits), and gas prices will be per "litre," not per gallon.
When you arrive, I would recommend buying The Gazette and The Globe and Mail. The former newspaper is the city's predominant English-language paper, the latter is national, and both are liberal enough to suit my sensibilities (or, should I say, sensible enough to suit my liberalism). And The Gazette has a very good sports section, and should do a good job covering the Expos, although, being a hockey city in a hockey Province in a hockey country, you’ll see a lot of stuff about the Canadiens and nearby minor-league, collegiate and “junior” hockey teams no matter what time of year it is.
I would advise against buying French-language papers like La Presse, Le Journal de Montreal and Le Devoir -- The Press, The Journal, and The Duty -- unless you really know French cold. Especially since Le Devoir is the paper of Quebec nationalism and even separatism. If The Gazette and The Globe and Mail are too liberal for you, The National Post may be more to your liking. Either the bus or the train terminal will have out-of-town papers, including The New York Times, and possibly also the Daily News or the Post.
Like New York, Montreal is a city of islands, with a a main island in the center -- except, unlike Manhattan, you can't cross a State Line (or, in this case, a Province Line) by going over a bridge or into a tunnel. Like New York, Montreal is international and multiethnic: In spite of French being the largest ethnic group, there are significant Irish, Italian and Jewish communities, and, for linguistic reasons, a large and growing community of immigrants from France's former African colonies.
Montreal doesn't really have a centerpoint -- centrepoint? pointe du centre? To make matters even more confusing, while they have East and West (Est et Ouest) on street names, like Manhattan, the main island is not perfectly north-south. Indeed, it's actually more than a 45-degree angle, so what's east is more north, and what's west is more south. Boulevard St-Laurent, known as The Main in English and Le Main (pronounced "leh man" in French), is the official east-west divider, where the address numbers on each side start at 1, while the river is the starting point for north-south-running streets.
The further west you go in the city, the more likely you are to hear English; the further east, the more likely you will be to hear only French. In fact, in Montreal's East End, you might see several buildings flying only the Provincial flag, the Fleurdelyse, the blue flag with the white cross and the white lilies in the cantons. These people who fly only the Provincial flag, not the red-white-red tricolor with the red Maple Leaf in the center, are separatists, who consider Quebec a separate nation and want Anglophone Canada to "Let my people go." The separatist tide has faded since the nearly successful referendum of October 30, 1995, but there is still strong separatist sentiment in the East End, and this increases the closer you get to the Provincial capital, Quebec City.
Roger Doucet, an opera singer who sang the National Anthem at Expos and Canadiens games in the 1970s before his death from cancer in 1981, would acknowledge this divide: He would begin the anthem in French, and face the east side of of Parc Jarry, Stade Olympique or the Forum; then, in mid-song, turn and face the west side of the structure, and conclude in English.
Montreal has a subway, opened in 1966 and known as “Le Metro,” just like that of Paris. But they don't use tokens or farecards. They use actual tickets. Very small tickets, an inch by an inch and a half. The Societe de transport de Montreal charges $3.00 for 1 trip, $5.50 for 2, $24.50 for 10, $9.00 for a one-day card, $12.00 for an "Unlimited Week-end" running from 6 PM Friday to 5 AM Monday. This makes it more expensive than the New York Subway, even with the exchange rate. A ride to Trudeau International Airport is $9.00.
(Update: I didn't look up the 2004 prices, and they now have a farecard, called an Opus Card. I guess they got tired of complaints about those little tickets.)
Reading the Metro map shouldn't be too much trouble, even if you don't know French. Getting to Stade Olympique, the Olympic Stadium, by public transportation is easy. It's 5 miles east of downtown, and you take Line 1, the Green Line, or any train that transfers to Line 1, to Pie-IX station. That's named after late 19th Century Pope Pius IX, and is pronounced "Pee-nuff." Don't laugh.
Because of Montreal's cold weather, Pie-IX station opens right into the stadium. In other words, you can go from downtown to the stadium, see an Expos game, and get back downtown, without even seeing the stadium from the outside. (This is actually unlikely, as the stadium can be seen from across the river, complete with the Olympic Tower standing over it, supporting the roof.)
If you are driving to the stadium, take Rue Sherbrooke to Pie-IX Boulevard. The stadium will look much like a flying saucer, with the Tower standing over it. The official address of the Olympic Stadium is 4141 Rue Pierre De Coubertin, named for the French Baron who restarted the Olympic Games in 1976.
Tickets. Contrary to what you've been hearing, Montreal hasn't always been a bad baseball city. In 1979, '80, '82 and '83, the Expos drew over 2 million fans to their home games. In '83, they peaked at an average of 28,650. Even as late as 1994, the Year of What Might Have Been, they were averaging 22,390. But the disillusionment kicked in, and while they still averaged 18,489 in 1997, the all-but-lame-duck status of the franchise reduced them to 7,935 in 2001. In 2003, even with the games played in San Juan, Puerto Rico, "home" attendance rose to only 12,662.
Therefore, with a baseball seating capacity of 43,739 (66,308 for football), you can pretty much get any seat you can afford. Remember, these prices are in Canadian dollars. VIP Boxes are $36, Box Seats $26, Terrace seating (upper deck) $16, and General Admission $8.
Going In. The stadium faces east, with the Tower hanging over center field, although you won't be able to see that from the inside. Gates are along Avenue Pierre-de-Coubertin, at home plate at Avenue Letourneux, and in right field at Avenue Aird.
There are no statues, inside or outside the stadium, dedicated to Expos or Alouettes greats. But they do have a statue outside, devoted to the most famous of the Montreal Royals' players, Jackie Robinson; and a plaque honoring him inside, inscribed in both English and French.
The field points north, although "east" as far as the city is concerned, but that doesn't make a difference, since you can't see outside the place anyway. The "flying saucer" effect is retained on the inside, with a a convex shape, and about 20,000 seats in center field are cut off by a huge scoreboard. The field is artificial and symmetrical: Outfield distances are 325 to the poles, 375 to the alleys and 404 to "centre." The seats add to the weirdness: They are hard plastic, and they have armrests only on the right side. Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit the Big O's longest home run, 535 feet, in 1978.
Food. Montreal is a great food city, but there are two things of which you should beware. One is Montreal-style hot dogs. This is a problem since hot dogs are a staple of baseball games. They call their hot dogs steamé, stimé or Steamie, and top them with mustard, chopped onion or sauerkraut. Sounds like New York style, right? But they also put this weird relish on it, and that ruins it. Do yourself a favor, and order your Steamie without relish. (Incidentally, in spite of my suggestions of similarities between Montreal and New York, don't expect to see hot dog carts on the streets: The city banned street food carts in 1947.)
The other food you will want to avoid is poutine. It's French fries topped with brown gravy. Sounds great, right? Not so fast: They also top it with curd cheese. As they would say in the city's Jewish neighborhood, "Feh!" Poutine, along with French fries (they call them patates frites, as they know that the item originated in Belgium, not France), is available at McDonald's, but stay away from it. Trust me.
If you're a fan of the film Pulp Fiction, you should be aware that, regardless of what it's called in Paris, in Montreal, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is called "un quarte de livre avec fromage." Literally, "a quarter of a pound with cheese."
Neverthless, the Olympic Stadium has standard baseball food, and although none of it is great, most of it upsets Canadian stomachs far less than do the Expos’ relief pitchers. One staple of Montreal food that is definitely worth it is viande fumée -- smoked meat sandwiches. Think New York's Carnegie Deli, only cheaper and better. Yum, yum.
Team History Displays. The Expos have 25 years of history, but those years haven't been very successful. They've only finished 1st twice, and both finishes are asterisk-worthy, as they came in the strike-shortened seasons of 1981 and 1994.
They beat the Philadelphia Phillies in a strike-forced Division Series in '81, and in the National League Championship Series they took the Los Angeles Dodgers to the 9th inning of a deciding Game 5. But in the top of the 9th, Rick Monday homered to center field to give the Dodgers the Pennant. Because of his name, the actual day of the week, and the color of the Dodgers' uniforms, the game, it became known as "Blue Monday." While the Expos do have a notation for the 1981 National League Eastern Division Title on the right field fence, there is no mention of the 1994 title, since, unlike that of '81, Major League Baseball does not officially recognized it.
(Update: As the Washington Nationals, they finally finished 1st in a full 162-game season in 2012. They still haven't won a Pennant, though. That October 11, 1981 win over the Phillies, with Steve Rogers -- not Captain America -- outpitching Steve Carlton remains the only postseason series the Expos/Nationals franchise has ever won. Unfortunately for Rogers, despite holding the Dodgers to 1 run over the first 8 innings, he also gave up Monday's homer.)
The Expos have retired 4 numbers, for 5 people: 8, Gary Carter, catcher, 1974-84 with a brief return in 1992; 10, Rusty Staub, right field, 1969-71 with a brief return in 1979; 10 again, Andre Dawson, center field, 1977-86; 30, Tim Raines, left field, 1979-90 with a brief return in 2001 that also led to his son Tim Jr. playing for the Expos at that time; and 83, Charles Bronfman, founder-owner, 1969-91. Bronfman used to wear a uniform with that number while attending spring training at West Palm Beach, Florida. Robinson's universally-retired Number 42 is also on the right-field wall with the Expos' retired numbers, although he wore 20 with the Montreal Royals. (Update: The film 42 shows him wearing 9 with the Royals, but there are surviving photographs showing him wearing 20 with them. Maybe he wore both.)
Daniel Joseph Staub is a Cajun, which is a mongrelization of "Acadian": He, like many other natives of New Orleans and (like his contemporary, former Yankee pitcher Ron Guidry) elsewhere in Louisiana, is descended from eastern Canada, what had been known as "New France." He was nicknamed Rusty because of his red hair, and when he was taken in the 1969 expansion draft, the Quebecois people thoroughly embraced their long-lost countryman, calling him "Le Grand Orange." In spite of only playing 4 seasons there, he may still be the most popular player in Expo history.
Staub is not in the Hall of Fame. The only former Expo in the Hall, and he just got in last year, is Carter. Current manager Frank Robinson is in the Hall, although that was for his playing, mainly with the Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles. The Expos do not have a team Hall of Fame.
(Update: As of 2013, there are 5 figures associated with the Expos in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Carter, Dawson, Robinson, Tony Perez and Dick Williams. Carter and Dawson are the only figures in the Hall with Expo caps on their plaques. Perez played 1st base for the Expos from 1977 to '79, and Williams managed the Expos from 1977 to '81. Ironically, they fired him in '81 in favor of team executive Jim Fanning -- with a name like that, you could certainly have thought he'd have been a good pitching coach -- and he managed them to the Division Title. The '94 title was led by Felipe Alou, but he is not in the Hall, nor did the Expos retire his Number 18. A banner showing the Expos' retired numbers 8, 10, 10 and 30 now hangs from the rafters of the Bell Centre, home of the Canadiens.)
There is no mention at the Olympic Stadium of the 7 International League Pennants won by the Expos’ minor-league predecessor, the Montreal Royals, a farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers: 1941, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1953 and 1958. Nor is there any mention of Royals' greats, including future Hall-of-Famers Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider (who later broadcast for the Expos), Don Drysdale (who also broadcast for the Expos), Tommy Lasorda (who was a very good pitcher in Triple-A but not major league quality until he became a manager), Walter Alston (managed the Royals), Sparky Anderson (not much of a player), and Roberto Clemente, whom the Dodgers let get away to the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Lasorda, Alston and Anderson are all in the Hall for what they did as managers.)
Ross Grimsley Sr. pitched for the Royals' '51 Pennant winners, and Ross Grimsley Jr. pitched for the Expos' '81 Division winners. Walter O'Malley ended the Dodgers' affiliation with the Royals in 1960, and then the Minnesota Twins bought them and moved them to Central New York State, where they have played as the Syracuse Chiefs ever since -- ironically, as a Toronto Blue Jays farm club since 1978.
Stuff. The usual memorabilia is sold, including jerseys with the names of current Expos players on them. For those of former Expos stars, sorry, but you’ll have to go to Mitchell & Ness in Philadelphia (or their website) to get them.
There aren't many good books about the team. Alan Usereau wrote The Expos in Their Prime: The Short-Lived Glory of Montreal's Team, 1977-1984. Jeff Stuart wrote Blue Mondays: The Long Goodbye of the Montreal Expos. And Claude Brochu, the owner whom many locals blame for the decline of the team, decided not to let them have the last word, and wrote his own version of history: My Turn At Bat: The Sad Saga of the Expos. I doubt that Jeffrey Loria, who (along with Commissioner Bud Selig) has really been killing the team, will write an apologia.
The Expos are also weak on video, but that's to be expected, since they haven't reached a World Series, and there are no official World Series highlight films for them. Since the team's 25th Anniversary is likely to be its last major one -- the idea of the Expos making it to a 30th Anniversary in 2009 is getting more and more ridiculous -- there's no Silver Anniversary video.
During the Game. You do not need to fear wearing your Met gear to the Olympic Stadium. You wouldn't even need to fear wearing Ranger, Islander or Devil gear to the Bell Centre. But at the Big O, they'll just be glad you showed up.
Since you’re in Canada, there will be two National Anthems sung. “The Star-Spangled Banner” will probably be sung by about half of the few thousand Met fans who show up, but “O Canada” will be sung by the home fans with considerable gusto. When I’m at a sporting event where the opposing team is Canadian, I like to sing “O Canada” in French. Montreal Canadiens fans like this when I do it at the Meadowlands. Fans of the other Canadian NHL teams just think it’s weird. But then, they root for the Blue Jays, and I root for the Yankees, so I’d rather have their opinion of me than my opinion of them.
The Expos’ mascot is a big furry orange thing named "Youppi!" Apparently, that's French-accented Canadian English for "Yippie!" And his uniform number is an exclamation point! He, more than Rusty Staub or Andre Dawson ever was, is the face of the franchise. The ball carries well indoors, better than it did in the years before the roof was finished (1977-91).
(Update: After the Expos left, Youppi! was adopted by the Expos, and remains beloved in Montreal.)
Announcements are made in English and French. "Play ball!" becomes "Au jeu!" (Game on! -- which is what they usually say for hockey in Canada.) "Let's go, Expos!" becomes "Allons-yi, Expos!" The team's nickname is Nos Amours -- Our Loved Ones. During the 7th inning stretch, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is sung in English and French.
After the Game. Expo fans will not rub it in on those occasions when they win. Montreal is an international city, every bit as much as New York is, and some of these people may have cut their teeth as sports fans in European soccer. But we’re not talking about hooligans here. Maybe if you were coming out of a hotly-contested hockey game against the Maple Leafs, but not once between "Original Six" rivals the Rangers, and not a baseball game.
If you want to go out for a postgame meal, or even just a pint, your best bet is to get back on the Metro, and head downtown. The Rue Crescent neighborhood, centered around that west-of-downtown street and roughly bordered by Rue Sherbrooke, Rue Peel, Boulevard Rene-Levesque and Rue Guy (that's "gee" with a hard G, not "guy"), is, more or less, Montreal's "Greenwich Village." You should be able to find a place that will serve you even if you order in English. Be advised, though, that you must remove your hat when you walk into a Montreal pub. They insist.
If all you need is a snack and coffee, your best bet may be Tim Hortons. (Note that there is no apostrophe: It’s “Hortons,” not “Horton’s,” because Bill 101, Quebec's ridiculous protect-the-French-language law, prohibits apostrophes and the company wanted to keep the same national identity.) They have a 62 percent share of the Canadian coffee market (Starbucks has just 7 percent) and 76 percent of the Canadian baked goods market. They also sell sandwiches, soup, chili, and even (some of you will perk up faster than if you’d drunk their coffee) New York-style cheesecake. It’s fast food, but good food. I rate them behind Dunkin Donuts, but ahead of Starbucks.
"Timmy's" (in the diminutive, people do use the apostrophe) has Montreal outlets even though namesake Tim Horton, a hockey defenceman (that’s how they spell it up there), played most of his career for the hated Maple Leafs. He and businessman Ron Joyce started the doughnut/coffee shop chain in 1964, while in the middle of the Maple Leafs’ 1960s dynasty. He played a couple of years for the Rangers, then went to the Buffalo Sabres and opened a few outlets in the Buffalo area. He was still playing at age 44, and the only thing that stopped him was death. Specifically, a 100-MPH, not-wearing-a-seat-belt crash on the Queen Elizabeth Way over Twelve Mile Creek in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Sidelights. Montreal is much cleaner than most American cities, mainly because Canada believes in using government for, you know, essential services, including proper sanitation, rather than in giving kickbacks to corporations that claim to create jobs but don't. But the city does have some bad neighborhoods. Still, you should be okay if you stay out of the East End -- or, if you really must go, are willing to speak French there and give lip service to the separatist cause. In the meantime, check out these locations:
* Parc Olympique. The legacy of the 1976 Olympics was one of debt -- still not paid off. This got "The Big O" the additional nickname "The Big Owe." But much of it is still open. It includes an arena named for Canadiens great Maurice Richard, with a statue of him outside; the Velodrome cycling center, now a nature museum called the Biodome; the Montreal Botanical Garden and the Montreal Insectarium. But you don't want to see a museum devoted to bugs.
(Update: The Olympic Park debt was finally paid off in 2008. The park now includes Saputo Stadium, the 20,000-seat home of Major League Soccer's Montreal Impact, although L'Impact -- nicknamed Limp Act by their rivals in Toronto and Vancouver -- use the Olympic Stadium for their bigger matches. And you still don't want to see a museum devoted to bugs. Unless you're my niece Ashley. She likes bugs.)
* Parc Jarry. Jarry Park Stadium was the original home of the Expos, from April 14, 1969 to September 26, 1976. It was meant as a temporary facility, seated only 28,456, and had a pool beyond right field that was the resting place for a few home runs. Expos pitcher Bill Stoneman pitched the 2nd of his no-hitters there, and in the park's last MLB game, the Phillies clinched their first 1st-place finish in 26 years. Now known as Stade Uniprix, in 1995 it was converted into a tennis stadium, with one end still recognizable as the home-plate seating area from Jarry Park. 285 Rue Faillon Ouest at Rue Gary-Carter. Parc Metro.
* Site of Delorimier Stadium. Home of the Royals from 1928 to 1960, and the CFL's Alouettes from 1946 to 1953, this 20,000-seat stadium was one of the best facilities in the minor leagues, and was Jackie Robinson's first home field in "organized ball." It was demolished in 1971 and replaced by a school, with a plaque honoring Robinson and the Royals. 2101 Rue Ontario Est & Avenue de Lorimier. Bus 125.
* Victoria Rink. Opened on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1862, and named for Queen Victoria, it was described at the down of the 20th Century as "one of the finest covered rinks in the world." On March 3, 1875, it hosted what is believed to be the very first indoor hockey game, anywhere in the world, complete with 9 men on a side, goaltenders (not a first but still unusual at that point), a referee, a puck rather than any kind of stone (as could be found in curling, then as now a popular sport in Canada), and both rules and time predetermined -- 60 minutes, as with today's hockey, although no separation into periods. The Victoria Skating Club played a team made up of students of nearby McGill University -- often considered Canada's answer to Harvard, and the year before it had played Harvard in a game that was vital to the development of football in North America -- and the Victorias won, 2-1.
The Montreal Hockey Club -- often listed as "Montreal Amateur Athletic Association" or "Montreal AAA" -- which was awarded the first Stanley Cup in 1893, and it hosted the first Cup playoff games in 1894. The Victoria Hockey Club won the Cup while playing there in 1895, 1897, 1898 and 1899. The Montreal Shamrocks defeated them for the Cup in 1899 (more than one "challenge series" could be held per year in those days), and won it again in 1900. The rink also hosted some of North America's first figure skating competitions.
It was torn down in 1925, and a parking garage was built on the site. Rue Drummond & Blvd. Rene-Levesque Ouest, adjacent to a Sheraton hotel. Metro Lucien-L'Allier.
* Jubilee Arena. This building didn't last too long, built in 1909 and burning down in 1919, a year after the fire that destroyed Westmount Arena, forcing the Canadiens, who started here, move to Mount Royal Arena. This arena's construction led to the founding of both the Canadiens and the National Hockey Association, the precursor to the National Hockey League. 3100 Rue St-Catherine Est at Rue Moreau. Bus 34.
* Mount Royal Arena. Home to the Canadiens from 1920 to 1926, the Habs won the 1924 Stanley Cup while playing there. It only seated 6,000, so when they were offered the chance to move into the larger Forum, they jumped at it. Mount Royal Arena was converted into a concert hall and then a commercial building, before burning down in 2000. A supermarket is now on the site. 50 Avenue du Mont-Royal Ouest & Rue Saint-Urbain. Bus 55.
* Montreal Forum and Westmount Arena. The Yankee Stadium of hockey, the Forum opened in 1924, and the Canadiens played there from 1926 until 1996, winning 22 of their 24 Stanley Cups in that span. (They won 2 before moving in, in 1916 and 1924.) The Montreal Maroons, who played from 1924 to 1938, also played there, winning the Stanley Cup in 1926 and 1935. The Canadiens clinched on home ice in 1930, 1931, 1944, 1946, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1965, 1968, 1979 and 1993; and on the road in 1958, 1960, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1986. Famously, the Canadiens never had an opponent clinch the Cup on Forum ice until 1989, when the Calgary Flames did it, the reverse of 1986 when the Habs clinched in Calgary. The Rangers clinched the 1928 Cup on Forum ice against the Maroons, who hung on through the Great Depression for as long as they could but finally went out of business.
In 1937, the Forum hosted the funeral of Howie Morenz. the Canadiens star known as "The Babe Ruth of Hockey," and later that year hosted the Howie Morenz Memorial Game as a benefit for his family, between a combined Canadiens-Maroons team and players from the other 6 teams then in the NHL, including New York's Rangers and Americans.
Elvis Presley never performed in Montreal -- or anywhere in Canada except shows in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver early in his career, in 1957 -- but The Beatles played at the Forum on September 8, 1964. In 1976, it hosted the Olympic gymnastic events, and it was there that Nadia Comaneci performed the first perfect 10 routine in Olympic history, having already gotten the first perfect 10 anywhere earlier in the year at "the new Madison Square Garden."
In 1972, the Forum hosted Game 1 of the "Summit Series" between Canada and the Soviet Union, and the Soviets' shocking 7-3 win turned the hockey world upside-down before Canada won Games 6, 7 and 8 in Moscow to take the series. On New Year's Eve, December 31, 1975, CSKA Moscow, a.k.a. the Central Red Army team, with many of the players from the Summit Series, began a North American tour at the Forum, and what were then the 2 best club hockey teams on the planet played to a stirring 3-3 tie that effectively launched the Habs on a streak of 4 straight Cups, 1976-79, which stand alongside their 5 straight of 1956-60 -- not as many consecutive Cups, but 16 consecutive series won as opposed to 10.
The original seating capacity was 9,300 -- which was considered huge for an indoor stadium in the 1920s, before the building boom that the Forum helped start, leading to that era's incarnations of Madison Square Garden and the Boston Garden, Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Chicago Stadium and the Olympia in Detroit. Capacity became 13,551 in 1949, and a 1968 renovation expanded it to a capacity of 16,259, pushed to 17,959 with 1,700 standees, with the tradition of the standees being let in first and rushing for position.
After an emotional closing ceremony on March 11, 1996, the Forum was converted into a mall, complete with restaurants, a bowling alley and a movie theater. Roughly where the rink was, hockey markings have been painted onto the floor of the main walkway, and there's a small bleacher with sculptures of fans and a bench with a statue of Maurice Richard, waiting to take the ice one more time. 2313 Rue St-Catherine Ouest, at Avenue Atwater.
Atwater used to be the city line between Montreal and Westmount, before mostly-Anglophone Westmount was incorporated into the "megacity" of Montreal in 2002. The Westmount Arena, right across from the Forum but in a separate city, was sometimes known as the Montreal Arena for prestige purposes, and was designed specifically for hockey, a rarity at the time, and was perhaps the first ice rink in the world to have the rounded corners we have come to expect from hockey. It opened on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1898, and was the home of several teams.
The Montreal AAA team won the Stanley Cup there in 1902 and 1903, making it 4 Cups, and by 1906 it was an amateur team that lasted until 1961. The Montreal Wanderers played there, winning the Stanley Cup in 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1910. The Canadiens started playing there in 1911, and won the Cup there in 1916.
On January 2, 1918, 19 years to the week after it opened, a fire started in, ironically, the arena's ice-making plant, and burned it to the ground. No one died, but the Canadiens had to move back to Jubilee Arena, and the Wanderers went out of business. A shopping center, Place Alexis-Nihon, is now on the site. Both that shopping center and the Forum can be accessed by Atwater Metro.
* Centre Bell. The new home of the Canadiens, originally Centre Molson, is adjacent to downtown Windsor Station, which is now a commuter line only (VIA Rail Canada, the country's version of Amtrak, operates out of Gare Centrale, 2 blocks away), on Rue de la Gauchtiere, although the address has been officially changed to 1909 Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montreal, to match the team and the year of its founding.
The Habs haven't done too well since moving in, not even making the Conference Finals. But the sight of those 24 Stanley Cup banners, all those retired number banners, and the noise and passion generated by Montrealers watching their game is still enough to intimidate opposing players and fans. Metro to either Lucien-L'Allier or Bonaventure.
(Update: The Yankees have now won a World Series at the new Yankee Stadium. The Boston Celtics have now won an NBA Championship at the TD Garden. And while Lambeau Field wasn't torn down and replaced with a new stadium, and wouldn't host a Super Bowl anyway, it has been significantly renovated, and the Packers have since had a Super Bowl-winning season. Canadiens, you still have only won 1 postseason series since moving into the Bell Centre. You're on the clock!)
* Percival Molson Memorial Stadium. Built in 1919, this stadium has been the home field for McGill University athletic teams, and was used by the CFL's Montreal Alouettes from 1947 to 1967, and again since 1998, although with only 25,012 seats, they still need to move into the Olympic Stadium for their Playoff games. It was named for Captain Percival Molson, a former McGill sports star and member of the Molson brewing family (which, for a time, owned the Canadiens), who was killed in action in World War I. Avenue des Pins at Rue University. Metro McGill.
* Windsor Hotel. Often called Canada's first grand hotel and billing itself as "the best in all the Dominion," it stood from 1875 to 1981. The National Hockey League was founded here on November 26, 1917, with 5 teams: The Montreal Canadiens and Wanderers, the Toronto Arenas (forerunners of the Maple Leafs), the Ottawa Senators (not the team that uses the name today), and the Quebec Bulldogs. By 1934, all but the Habs and the Leafs would be out of business. Following a fire in 1957, the hotel went into decline, and the North Annex is all that remains, now an office building and banquet complex called Le Windsor. 1170 Rue Peel at Rue Cypress. Metro Peel or Bonaventure.
* Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Opened in 1958, its namesake -- and her namesake, the widow of King George VI that our generation knew as the Queen Mother -- stayed here, as have other monarchs, presidents, prime ministers and legendary entertainers. From May 26 to June 2, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their "Bed-In For Peace" at Room 1742, and recorded "Give Peace a Chance" there. 900 Blvd. Rene-Levesque Ouest at Rue University. Metro Bonaventure.
* Historic sites. Being outside the U.S., there are no Presidential Libraries in Canada. The nation's Prime Ministers usually don't have that kind of equivalent building. Of Canada's 15 deceased Prime Ministers, 2 are buried in or near Montreal. John Abbott was PM for only a year and a half in 1891 and 1892, and is buried at Mount Royal Cemetery. In contrast, Pierre Trudeau was PM for all but 9 months between April 1968 and June 1984, and is, depending on your stance on the role of government and the status of Quebec, either the most-loved or the most-hated head of government in Canada's history. He is buried at Saint-Remi Cemetery, about 20 miles southwest of the city in Saint-Remi.
George-Etienne Cartier was Premier of "Canada East" prior to Confederation (their first step toward independence) in 1867, and along with the Anglophone Sir John A. Macdonald of "Canada West" was essentially the Francophone "Founding Father" of Canada. (They call their Founding Fathers "the Fathers of Confederation.") Essentially, the Fathers were afraid that, with America's Civil War over, their country would be next -- an understandable belief, since attempts to take Canada from Britain by force had been made during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, and had also been threatened in the 1840s. Cartier's home is a National Historic Site, at 458 Rue Notre-Dame Est at Rue Berri. Metro Champ-de-Mars.
Also accessible by Champ-de-Mars station is Place Jacques-Cartier, where the French explorer of that name -- no relation to George-Etienne -- discovered the islands that became the city. It is the gateway to Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal), and unlike New York, which is actually older (founded 1624 as opposed to 1642), a lot of 17th and 18th Century Montreal buildings remain.
* Museums. The city's version of the Museum of Natural History, Pointe-a-Calliere, is at 350 Place Royale at Rue de la Commune Ouest. Metro Place-d'Armes. Their equivalent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, is at 1380 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest at Rue Crescent, just off the Concordia University campus. Metro Peel or Guy-Concordia. The McCord Museum of Canadian History is at 690 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest at Rue University. Metro McGill, although its relative proximity to the Museum of Fine Arts allows you to do one right after the other.
* Delis. That wonderful smoked meat, Montreal's take on the classic bagel, and other delicatessen delicacies, can be picked up in lots of places, but 3 stand out: Bens De Luxe, with its Art Deco entrance at 990 Blvd. de Maisonneuve Ouest at Rue Metcalfe, Metro McGill or Peel; Schwartz'a, 3895 Blvd. Saint-Laurent at Rue Milton, Metro Sherbrooke; and Wilensky's Light Lunch, immortalized in Mordecai Richler's novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and with scenes from the Alan Arkin movie based on it filmed there, 34 Avenue Fairmount Ouest at Rue Clark, Rue Metro. I've been to all 3 and recommend them all highly.
(Update: Sadly, the legendary Bens, the oldest deli in the city, closed in 2006 and was demolished in 2008. Some of its memorabilia is now at the McCord Museum. An effort was made to preserve it as a historic site, but it failed.)
The Expos are now gone. But Montreal is still a great North American and world city. So if you feel like taking in Playoff hockey at its most passionate, make sure your passport is in order, see if you can scrounge up a ticket, and head on up.