Guys weekend in Montreal

The idea for a guys weekend in Montreal with my dad started with a desire to relive some old times in the city. Aside from family road trips to visit my mom and dad’s relatives in New Brunswick, my first real travel experiences were with dad visiting Montreal to take in Expos games in the early 1980s. Those trips were fun times and the memories of them still float around in my mind from time to time. The excited feelings I had when I first arrived in Montreal as a child on the train on those trips are pretty much the same feelings I have today when I visit a place for the first time.

So with nostalgia sparking the idea, and a couple of Blue Jays preseason games in Montreal this past March forming the cornerstone of a trip, I invited my dad on a guys weekend in a city we both love. I flew in from Saskatoon, him from Halifax, and we met in the Montreal airport ready to relive some good old times and to see what kind of trouble we could get into. Trouble is all relative of course, and 40-somthing me and 70-something dad were both up for some unhealthy but delicious eating. First order of business was a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s.

At Schwartz's Deli

You can tell by our faces it was delicious. For me – this is a top 5 all-time sandwich and no trip to Montreal is complete without one of these getting in my belly.

Smoked meat at Schwartz's

Our first afternoon in the city, we caught up on the four months since we had last been together over a couple of delicious craft beers at Benelux. It’s a great craft beer bar, and I loved sitting in the window on a warm day crushing a couple of pints with my dad.

Beers with dad at Benelux

Although baseball was the focus of the trip, the NHL schedule gave us a chance to take in a Thursday night Montreal Canadiens game at the Bell Centre. A couple of nosebleed seats, a few Molson Ex’s (sense a theme yet?) and a dominant performance by the home team in a victory over the Florida Panthers was a great way to wrap up day one.

The real draw for the weekend was baseball. My dad took me to my first baseball game at Olympic Stadium in 1982. At the tender age of 8, I had no idea how good I had it. That first game, I got to watch Fernando Valenzuela start for the Dodgers against the Expos. I was really too distracted by the enormity of the stadium and seeing so many people in one place to appreciate getting to watch one of the great pitchers in baseball history perform.

Walking back into Olympic stadium for a baseball game for the first time since 2002, I was smiling ear to ear. She’s a dump of a baseball stadium, but she’s my dump and I loved being back. Even well, well past its prime (if it ever had a “prime”) the Big O is oddly, perversely beautiful. Standing behind home, I missed being here over the past 15 years and couldn’t quite wrap my head around the Blue Jays logo on the centre field scoreboard.

DSCF0566

We settled into our seats to take in some batting practice. It was good to be back.

At Olympic Stadium with dad

Before the Friday night game, there was a ceremony honouring Tim Raines on his being selected to be inducted into baseball’s hall of fame. I won’t lie… it brought a few (or perhaps 5,000) tears to my eyes.

Tim Raines ceremony

And then something made me deliriously happy before the first pitch of the game. In a bit of a surprise, Youpii! entertained fans by riding around on his 4-wheeler just like he used to do before Expos games. He might be wearing the wrong team’s uniform now, but I loved seeing my favourite mascot in his proper home again. On seeing him enter the field on his bike I yelled out “Youppi!” so loud the person in front of my jumped. Perhaps not flattering on a grown human being, but my eyes welled up at this sight too. So many memories…

Youppi!

We had great seats for the Friday night game just down the 3rd base line. Both the Jays and Pirates used their full slate of big leaguers in the last full prep game before the season. We saw great pitching and defence as the game ended in a 1-1 tie in front of more than 43,000 fans.

Olympic Stadium, Montreal

We came back on Saturday afternoon for the second game. Two hours before first pitch, this was the scene at the entrances of the Big O. Who says Montreal isn’t a baseball city?

Crowd at Olympic Stadium

Like every game we’ve been to together, we got here early to watch batting practice. I made a point of taking a picture with dad along the third base side….

At Olympic Stadium with dad

… recreating a picture from 15 years ago at the last Expos game we ever got to attend. I hope we’ll someday get to take a picture in virtually the same spot when our Expos are reborn.

Dad and me at our last Expos game

The crowd for the Saturday game was enormous, and with more than 52,000 people attending, our seats were a little less than stellar. Second row from the back of the upper deck, we were closer to the roof than the field. But it didn’t matter. The Jays won 6-4, we saw a couple of home runs, and the beer tastes as good up here as it did down below.

Olympic Stadium

We had a blast together on this weekend. Hockey, baseball, beers, poutine… it was great to spoil dad over a weekend they way he spoiled me on our baseball trips here in the 1980s. I’m already looking forward to our next guys weekend.

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