Montreal Canadiens: July Is Here, Meaning We Finally Get To See Hockey This Month!

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 27: Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 27: Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens will finally return to action this month. We haven’t seen them since March, but live hockey will be back soon!

The Montreal Canadiens were last seen on March 10 in downtown Montreal, wearing bleu, blanc et rouge uniforms, while slowly stumbling along towards the finish line of the marathon that is the NHL schedule.

They lost to the Nashville Predators that night, 4-2. It was a game that was scoreless after 20 minutes of action, or lack thereof, followed by a four goal outburst by the Predators in the second period. A couple of goals by the Habs in the third, including Lukas Vejdemo’s first ever NHL goal, made the score look a lot closer than the game actually was.

The Canadiens top three defenders, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Ben Chiarot all played well over 23 minutes. Their bottom three defenders, Xavier Ouellet, Christian Folin and Brett Kulak all played less than 17:30.

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Two days later, the NHL announced it would be pausing its schedule indefinitely due to the covid-19 global pandemic. Indefinitely turned into three months of mostly silence, followed by an announcement in June about the return to play format. We still don’t know where the games will take place, or exactly when they will begin, but it will be this month!

Training camps are scheduled to open in full on July 10. The Canadiens already have a handful of players in town taking part in voluntary skates at the team’s practice facility in Brossard. That is considered Phase 2 of a return to play plan from the league. Phase 3 is training camp in nine days and Phase 4 is game action which should begin in the last few days of this month.

Though absolutely nothing is official as of yet, training camps have been rumoured to be at most three weeks. Three weeks after July 10 is July 31, so training camps should wrap up in the last week of July sometime, opening the door for NHL games to take place by July 30 probably.

The return to play plan has the Canadiens taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Best-of-5 play-in series. The winner advances to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the loser is done for the year. It is going to be a lot to give up for players, moving into these yet-to-be announced hub cities at the end of July and staying there until their team is eliminated – or wins the Stanley Cup.

It remains to be seen what the hub cities will look like and whether the player’s families will be allowed access to the facilities. The league continues to discuss the fact they will be inside a bubble, but haven’t given a lot of information about how big this bubble will be or if wives and children of players will be allowed inside. Does the bubble include restaurants in the area? Does it include golf courses? There was some vague talk that it would, but nothing is finalized yet.

What we do know, is we will finally see the Montreal Canadiens take the ice as a team on July 10 for the first time in exactly four months. Their training camp will begin at that time and though there definitely won’t be fans allowed in to watch, I’m sure a few cameras will find their way inside the Bell Centre, or the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard to give us a glimpse at the Habs on the ice.

Once training camps finally come to a close, teams will head to the hub cities, and we are likely to see the first ever NHL play-in series games by the end of this month.

Now, with the eight losers of the play-in series getting an equal chance at drafting Alexis Lafreniere with the first overall pick, I wouldn’t blame you for hoping the Habs lose their series. However, it will still be fun to finally see them play.

July is usually a fun month on the NHL calendar with free agency taking place. Every team in the league has a chance to add to their team without subtracting anything (other than substantial cap space).

This July will be much different. We will get to see the Canadiens take part in training camp and should see them play their first game since March 10. While we won’t be talking about the possible free agents they could sign, and whether or not they will agree to an extension with Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar or Jeff Petry.

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But we will get to see them play hockey. And after four months of absolutely no hockey whatsoever, I’ll take hoping they lose in five games to the Pittsburgh Penguins over what we went through in April, May and June.