The Bell Centre (French: Centre Bell), formerly known as the Molson Centre (or Le Centre Molson), is a multi-purpose arena in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It opened on March 16, 1996, after nearly three years under construction. It is best known as the home of the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team, and it has the largest arena capacity to regularly host an NHL team.
Exterior of the Bell Centre, 2015
|Former names||New Montreal Forum (pre-construction–1996)|
Molson Centre, Centre Molson (1996–2002)
|Address||1909, avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal|
|Public transit||Montreal Metro (STM):|
Amphitheatre: 10,000 to 14,000
Theatre: 5,000 to 9,000
Hemicycle: 2,000 to 3,500
MMA: 16,000 to 23,152
|Field size||780,000 square feet (72,000 m2)|
|Broke ground||June 22, 1993|
|Opened||March 16, 1996|
|Construction cost||C$270 million|
($405 million in 2018 dollars)
|Architect||LeMay & Associate, LLC.|
LeMoyne Lapointe Magne
|Project manager||IBI/DAA Group|
|General contractor||Huber, Hunt & Nichols|
|Montreal Canadiens (NHL) (1996–present)|
Montreal Roadrunners (RHI) (1996–1997)
Montreal Impact (NPSL) (1997–2000)
Montreal Rocket (QMJHL) (2001–2003)
Montreal Express (NLL) (2002)
It is currently owned by a partnership group headed by Geoff Molson and his brothers, Andrew and Justin. The same ownership group also owns the Montreal Canadiens and Evenko, an entertainment event promoter. Since it opened in 1996, it has consistently been listed as one of the world's busiest arenas, usually receiving the highest attendance of any arena in Canada. In 2012, it was the fifth-busiest arena in the world based on ticket sales for non-sporting events.
Construction began on the site on June 22, 1993, almost two weeks after the Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings at the Forum for their 24th and most recent Stanley Cup. The name of the arena initially reflected Molson, Inc., a brewing company which was owner of the Canadiens at the time. Molson elected not to keep the naming rights when they sold the team and the name was officially changed on September 1, 2002, after Bell Canada acquired the naming rights.
On October 14, 2015, it was announced that Bell Centre would undergo renovations, including renovated hallways and concessions, new restaurants, public Wi-Fi, and the planned conversion of Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal (the section of De la Gauchetière Street on which the arena is situated) into a pedestrian-only street. The renovations, which are not expected to interfere with normal operations, have a budget of $100 million.
Bell Centre is located in downtown Montreal, near the corner of Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal (formerly Rue de la Gauchetière Ouest) and De La Montagne Street. The Lucien L'Allier commuter rail terminal, to which it is connected, is next door on that corner. In addition it is located across the street from the 1250 René-Lévesque skyscraper. It is easily accessible by public transportation, as it is linked to both Lucien-L'Allier and Bonaventure Metro stations. It is also connected to the underground city and Central Station.
The building covers an area of 1.568 hectares or 3.87 acres (15,680 square metres or 168,778 square feet). It has a seating capacity of 21,288,
making it the largest hockey arena in the world. It also holds six restaurants.
Capacities of the Centre are:
- Arena (hockey): 21,302
- Arena (basketball): 22,114
- Concerts: 19,200
- Amphitheatre: 10,000–14,000
- Theatre: 5,000–9,000
- Hemicycle: 2,000–4,000
The public address announcer for the Canadiens' games is Michel Lacroix, while the national anthem singer alternates every home game after Charles Prevost-Linton was not asked to return at the end of the 2013–2014 season. Most notable amongst these rotating performers is Quebecois pop legend Ginette Reno, whose appearances to sing the Canadian anthem at playoff games were highly popular. Diane Bibeau plays the organ on Saturday nights.
A new scoreboard was installed prior of the 2008–2009 season. The new scoreboard consists of four 510 square foot video panels. It was the biggest in the NHL until 2012.
It is one of only two NHL arenas that uses an old-style siren to mark the end of periods instead of a horn; the other is TD Garden in Boston. The sirens were inherited from the arenas' predecessor facilities, coming from the disused Montreal Forum and the Boston Garden respectively.
Unlike most North American arenas, which have generally been designed by Populous and its predecessors, the Bell Centre was designed by a local consortium, and has many unique design features. The grandstands are sloped steeply, to improve sight lines. Washrooms on the 100 level are centralized on a specific lower level located at each end.
The Bell Centre is arranged in a three-tier layout: The lower 100 section, commonly referred to as "the reds" since these seats are coloured red; the 200 section, known as "Club Desjardins", and the upper 300–400 section.
The Club Desjardins section is premium section between two levels of private and corporate boxes. Larger seats and free food and non-alcoholic drinks are provided.
The 300–400 section is divided into three zones by seat colour: white section rows AA–FF, the grey section rows A–D, and the blue section, labelled "400," and consisting of rows A–D. The ends of the 400 section are further divided into two more groups. At the end the Canadiens shoot towards twice is the Coors Light Zone, featuring section cheerleaders and a band playing in the hallway. At the opposite end is the Family Zone, featuring child-specific ticket prices and limited alcohol.
Seats behind the press gondola, in Sections 318, 319, and 320, feature their own scoreboards on the back of the gondola, due to the normal scoreboard being blocked.
After some early complaints of a generic feel, especially compared to the Forum, the Canadiens started to incrementally decorate the building with celebrations of the team's history, including a ring of players around the top level of seating. The Molson Ex Zone features a live band stage and its own red theme.
The Bell Centre is the main venue in Montreal for large-scale entertainment events. Many artists have performed at the arena, like Céline Dion, Tina Turner, Elton John, Billy Joel, Shania Twain, Cher, Bon Jovi, Coldplay, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Roger Waters, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Metallica, The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith.
The singer who has performed the most times at the Bell Centre is Céline Dion with 47 performances between 1996 and 2019 from her Falling into You: Around the World tour in 1996 and 1997, Let's Talk About Love World Tour in 1998 and 1999, Taking Chances World Tour in 2008 and 2009, Summer Tour 2016 in 2016 and Courage World Tour in 2019. On December 31st 1999, she performed the final show of the Let's Talk About Love World Tour, which was her last performance before a three-year hiatus from the music industry.
The final two games of the three-game 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship series were held at Bell Centre (the USA won both games, defeating Canada in the series 2–1). Bell Centre was also host to two pool games in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. The Bell Centre was the host of the 2009 NHL All-Star Game and hosted the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Montreal Canadiens home games have been consistently sold out since January 2004. Additionally, the Canadiens have among the top attendance figures in the NHL. For the 2009–2010 season, the Habs had the highest attendance played at their home arena. All 21,273 seats were sold in 45 minutes on May 12, 2010, for fans to watch the 7th game in the playoff series versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, which was shown on the big screens. Noise levels in the arena allegedly reached as high as 135 dB when goals were scored by the Canadiens, most notably, during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, during Game #6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 10, 2010, making it one of the loudest NHL arenas during hockey games.
On December 9, 2014, the Canadiens hosted the Vancouver Canucks, the first home game since the death of Jean Béliveau. The game was preceded by a memorial tribute to him. Bell Centre remained sold-out that night with 21,286 fans in attendance and one empty seat left for Mr. Beliveau, with the official attendance shortened by one to honour him.
Bell Centre hosted an NBA basketball game for the first time on Friday, October 22, 2010, a preseason game featuring the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks. Another preseason game, featuring the same teams, was held on October 19, 2012. On October 20, 2013, Bell Centre hosted its third preseason game featuring the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Another Toronto–New York preseason game was held at the arena on October 24, 2014. On October 23, 2015, Bell Centre hosted its fifth preseason game featuring the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards. On October 10, 2018, Bell Centre hosted its sixth preseason game featuring the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets. The five most recent preseason games were all sell-outs.
|October 22, 2010||New York Knicks||103-108||Toronto Raptors||PS||-|
|October 19, 2012||New York Knicks||88-107||Toronto Raptors||PS||-|
Bell Centre was the venue of the first UFC event (UFC 83) to take place in Canada, held in April 2008. The show was headlined by a rematch between Welterweight champion Matt Serra and Montreal native Georges St-Pierre. The tickets available to the public sold out in under one minute, and the event set the all time UFC attendance record, at that time (since surpassed by UFC 129 in Toronto). Other UFC events have subsequently been held at Bell Centre, including UFC 97, UFC 113, UFC 124, UFC 154 and UFC 158, the most recent three of which were headlined by St-Pierre.
Bell Centre has occasionally hosted WWE professional wrestling events, including three pay-per-views (Survivor Series in 1997, No Way Out in 2003, and Breaking Point in 2009), as well as broadcasts of Raw and SmackDown. In April 2019, Bell Centre hosted Raw and SmackDown Live on consecutive nights, which featured the 2019 Superstar Shake-up.
During Survivor Series, Bell Centre was the site of the "Montreal Screwjob"—a controversial match where Calgary-native Bret Hart lost the WWF World Heavyweight Championship to his rival Shawn Michaels. Hart had signed a contract to leave WWF for the rival WCW the following month, and did not want to lose a championship match to Michaels in his own country. The original plan was for the match to be interrupted by a brawl among the wrestlers' allies, after which the match would end by disqualification, and Hart would lose or vacate the championship at a later date. However, WWF owner Vince McMahon intervened without Hart's knowledge to force a Michaels victory, having the referee call the fight as a victory by submission after Michaels performed a Sharpshooter on Hart, even though he had not actually submitted.. Wrestling writer Mike Johnson considered the match to be "arguably the most talked-about match in the history of professional wrestling".
The following numbers have been retired by the Canadiens and hang from the rafters:
|No.||Player||Position||Tenure||Date of honour|
|1||Jacques Plante||G||1952–63||October 7, 1995|
|2||Doug Harvey||D||1947–61||October 26, 1985|
|3||Emile Bouchard||D||1941–56||December 4, 2009|
|4||Jean Beliveau||C||1950–71||October 9, 1971|
|5||Bernie Geoffrion||RW||1950–64||March 11, 2006|
|Guy Lapointe||D||1968–82||November 8, 2014|
|7||Howie Morenz||C||1923–37||November 2, 1937|
|9||Maurice Richard||RW||1942–60||October 6, 1960|
|10||Guy Lafleur||RW||1971–85||February 16, 1985|
|12||Dickie Moore||LW||1951–63||November 12, 2005|
|Yvan Cournoyer||RW||1963–79||November 12, 2005|
|16||Henri Richard||C||1955–75||December 10, 1975|
|Elmer Lach||C||1940–54||December 4, 2009|
|18||Serge Savard||D||1966–81||November 18, 2006|
|19||Larry Robinson||D||1972–89||November 19, 2007|
|23||Bob Gainey||LW||1973–89||February 23, 2008|
|29||Ken Dryden||G||1970–79||January 29, 2007|
|33||Patrick Roy||G||1984–95||November 22, 2008|
While Elmer Lach and Henri Richard both wore the number 16, they were given separate ceremonies unlike Cournoyer and Moore. All have their own banner.
The only other banners hanging from the rafters at Bell Centre are those of the Canadiens' Stanley Cup championship banners. Unlike other NHL arenas, the Canadiens do not display division or conference championship banners, despite the fact they have won many championships over the years (including 24 Stanley Cups). At Bell Centre, as had the Forum, only Stanley Cup championship banners are raised to the rafters.
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