New Canadiens get first regular season encounter with Montreal fans

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MONTREAL - The new members of the Montreal Canadiens were hoping to make a better first impression to their fans.

There were eight Canadiens who were playing their first regular season game at the Bell Centre on Thursday night, and after soaking in the atmosphere of their new home they would have liked to provide the fans with a victory.

But it didn't happen, as the Habs fell 3-2 to the surprising Colorado Avalanche, sending a sellout crowd of 21,273 home disappointed.

"We were standing on the line and I looked over at Brian (Gionta) and gave him a little smirk, he just said 'Wow' and looked back at me with a big smile on his face," said Mike Cammalleri of the pre-game player introductions. "I wish it could have gone a little differently, but this is a pretty special place to play hockey."

The Canadiens had all their players line up on the red line prior to the game, and one by one they each took the microphone and introduced themselves to the fans.

"That opening ceremony was pretty unique," Gionta said. "It's always fun when the crowd's behind you and behind the team."

For Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, Travis Moen, Hal Gill, Shawn Belle, Scott Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri, it was the first time they experienced playing as the home side in one of the loudest buildings in the league.

"It was incredible," Mara said. "The fans here are second to none. They have a passion and a knowledge for the game, and each and every night is exciting coming to the game. We want to play our best not only for each other, but for the fans."

Canadiens GM Bob Gainey orchestrated the biggest roster overhaul in team history over the off-season, saying goodbye to 10 unrestricted free agents and bringing in seven new faces.

The one new player who was not expected to be a part of the opening night festivities was Belle, who was making his Canadiens debut because of injuries to defencemen Andrei Markov and Ryan O'Byrne.

Belle's parents lived in Montreal for a long time before he was born and are both big Canadiens fans, so it was a very special moment for the former first round pick that has had trouble sticking in the NHL.

"I've never been in a building that loud in my life," he said. "It sent goose bumps down my spine."

In addition to the new players, it was also a first regular-season home game for new head coach Jacques Martin, who got a loud ovation when he was introduced to the crowd.

"You're always nervous before a game," he said. "You want to have the results you hope for."


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