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Hockey excursion to Montreal was just the ticket for Truro area men

At a sports store in Montreal’s Bell Centre, John Johnson, left, suits up in a well-crested Canadiens outfit. At right and he and John LeBlanc enjoy a Montreal Canadiens – Pittsburgh Penguins game at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
At a sports store in Montreal’s Bell Centre, John Johnson, left, suits up in a well-crested Canadiens outfit. At right and he and John LeBlanc enjoy a Montreal Canadiens – Pittsburgh Penguins game at the Bell Centre in Montreal. - Contributed

A lobster fisherman and a store clerk boarded a bus in Truro…

If you were around in the 1960s, chances are you recall someone taking a hockey excursion to Montreal. You may have even gone on one yourself.

It was quite popular with a number of hockey fans more than 50 years ago. They would gather at the Truro train station and then head down the tracks to enjoy live National Hockey League action at the Montreal Forum.

On their return, highlights and secrets might be shared carefully with the tight-lipped. Recently, John LeBlanc and John Johnson told me their story – it seems that they too enjoyed a hockey excursion to Montreal.

LeBlanc, a very personable man, could also be described as a colourful character. Raised in Morris Island, near Yarmouth, the population was roughly 20.

 “My father was a fisherman,” said LeBlanc, 64, of Brooklyn, Yarmouth County. “My grandfather was a fisherman and I’m a fisherman.”

LeBlanc, a lobster fisherman for 50 years, fishes in the winter and paints houses in the summer. He described strong ties to Truro.

“My daughter Maureen is married to John Johnson of Truro. We get to Truro about three times a year. We enjoy going to Masstown Market; I like Victoria Park and we try to catch a Truro Bearcats hockey game when we can. There’s good places to shop in Truro and my wife Nancy enjoys getting to the Farmers’ Market.”

Late this summer, LeBlanc had an idea.

“I saw on social media an advertisement of a Montreal – Pittsburgh NHL hockey game at the Bell Centre in Montreal. I telephoned John in Truro and he was all for it. We are both Montreal Canadiens fans so we’ve kind of bonded.”

Dream Vacation Tours, out of Moncton, was making pickups in Halifax and Truro as well as points in New Brunswick.

“John and I boarded a large coach at 5:15 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 10 at the Rath-Eastlink Community Centre. The charter included two buses, one bus had 51

passengers and the other had 52. There were stops every two- to two-and-a-half hours.”

Johnson, a store clerk with the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, has lived in Truro all his life. The trip was made the weekend of John and his wife Maureen’s five-year wedding anniversary.

“This was our first guys’ trip away,” Johnson shared. “During the trip to Montreal, we just sat back and enjoyed the sights and we listened to conversations around us. There were many stretch breaks along the way. Everyone aboard was going to the hockey game; we watched videos and played trivia games. We were all first-timers for the hockey excursion… between eight and 80 years of age.”

Along the way, there were lots of snow geese to see.

“Nearing Montreal at rush hour, the number of cars we saw compared to Truro…” said a smiling Johnson. “It was great to see Olympic Stadium all lit up.”

The bus got into Montreal at 6:30 p.m.

“It gave us a night to relax,” Leblanc said. “The next morning, we watched the Canadiens’ practice at the Broussard Complex. This was part of our package.”

Johnson recalled another pregame highlight.

“We enjoyed a visit to 5 Guy’s Burgers. Dad wasn’t really for it until we were served our burgers. We both hoed in. Walking down Saint Catherine Street before the game, it was awesome taking in the hustle, the bustle and the hockey atmosphere.”

LeBlanc told of a visit to a sports store in the Bell Centre.

“We tried on sports jackets loaded up with Canadiens’ crests. They were very nice and very colourful. The jackets sold for $275 and the pants were $175. We both tried on the outfits but we didn’t make any purchase.”

LeBlanc said the trip highlight was game night.

“The game was a sell-out, 22,000 fans. It was a great game to see, it went to overtime. Then, we watched Montreal win 4-3 in a shootout.”

Johnson added, “Yes, it was really awesome sitting at centre ice, we caught a really great game.”

Arriving back in Truro Sunday night, LeBlanc and Johnson were more than pleased, the hockey excursion to Montreal had gone well.

“It’s the only way to go,” said LeBlanc. “The whole thing cost us about $550 each. The price included our hotel room and our hockey tickets.”

Lyle Carter’s column appears every second week in the Truro News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 902-673-2857.

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