|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
($390 million in 2016 dollars)
|Architect||LeMay & Associate, LLC.
LeMoyne Lapointe Magne
|Project manager||IBI/DAA Group|
|General contractor||Huber, Hunt & Nichols|
|Montreal Canadiens (NHL) (1996-present)
Montreal Impact (NPSL) (1997-2000)
Montreal Rocket (QMJHL) (2001-2003)
Montreal Express (NLL) (2002)
The Bell Centre (French: Centre Bell), formerly known as the Molson Centre (or Le Centre Molson), is a sports and entertainment complex 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.
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:
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. Each siren was inherited from each arena's predecessor facility in each case: 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, 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.
Bell Centre is arranged in a three-tier layout: The lower 100 section, commonly referred to as "the reds" since these seats are painted 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 consists 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.
Bell Centre is also the primary concert venue for major performances. Most shows put on by big acts visit the arena unless they require more room than is available in a hockey rink-sized facility; in which case the Olympic Stadium is used, or less frequently, Parc Jean-Drapeau.
Bell Centre has a winter tradition of hosting a performance each year by Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil.
Concerts by Celine Dion for August 15 and 16, 2008 were sold out within six minutes. The next day, Dion's management added two more concert dates on August 18 and 20, 2008. A further seven dates were added bringing the total to 11 shows and 246,000 spectators. She set a record in the history of Canadian concerts when all eleven shows sold out within an hour. By her 11th concert, she played Bell Centre 31 times since 1996. The Montreal concerts grossed just over $30 million, making it one of the biggest arena concert events in history.
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.
Four preseason NBA games played on October 19, 2012 between the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks, October 20, 2013 between the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves, October 24, 2014 between the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks, and October 23, 2015 between the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards were all sell-outs.
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.
It has also hosted WWE events regularly. The most notable event that took place at the arena was Survivor Series 1997, during which the Montreal Screwjob incident occurred. It also hosted No Way Out in 2003 and Breaking Point in 2009. During the live broadcast of an episode of Raw in 2012, Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack.
The following numbers have been retired by the Canadiens and hang from the rafters:
|No.||Player||Position||Tenure||Date of honour|
|1||Plante, JacquesJacques Plante||G||1952-63||October 7, 1995|
|2||Harvey, DougDoug Harvey||D||1947-61||October 26, 1985|
|3||Bouchard, EmileEmile Bouchard||D||1941-56||December 4, 2009|
|4||Beliveau, JeanJean Beliveau||C||1950-71||October 9, 1971|
|5||Geoffrion, BernieBernie Geoffrion||RW||1950-64||March 11, 2006|
|Lapointe, GuyGuy Lapointe||D||1968-82||November 8, 2014|
|7||Morenz, HowieHowie Morenz||C||1923-37||November 2, 1937|
|9||Richard, MauriceMaurice Richard||RW||1942-60||October 6, 1960|
|10||Lafleur, GuyGuy Lafleur||RW||1971-85||February 16, 1985|
|12||Moore, DickieDickie Moore||LW||1951-63||November 12, 2005|
|Cournoyer, YvanYvan Cournoyer||RW||1963-79||November 12, 2005|
|16||Richard, HenriHenri Richard||C||1955-75||December 10, 1975|
|Lach, ElmerElmer Lach||C||1940-54||December 4, 2009|
|18||Savard, SergeSerge Savard||D||1966-81||November 18, 2006|
|19||Robinson, LarryLarry Robinson||D||1972-89||November 19, 2007|
|23||Gainey, BobBob Gainey||LW||1973-89||February 23, 2008|
|29||Dryden, KenKen Dryden||G||1970-79||January 29, 2007|
|33||Roy, PatrickPatrick 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.