BROSSARD, Que.— We’re a little over 24 hours from Connor Bedard’s NHL debut in Canada and the price to watch him make it at the Bell Centre is soaring by the second.
Granted, this will be the Canadiens’ home opener, and you always have to pay a premium to watch it from inside hockey’s loudest amphitheater. It’s a new edition of the team, a new season, a first opportunity to support the cause and, perhaps, witness the first win, and sellout crowds have proven time and time again they’ll pony up for that.
But we’re fairly certain the person trying to sell his pair of reds for over $6,000 wouldn’t be as confident about cashing in were it Nobleton, Ont.’s Adam Fantilli and the Columbus Blue Jackets opposite the Canadiens Saturday.
Bedard, who hails from North Vancouver, is arriving back on Canadian soil after recording his first NHL assist in his debut against childhood idol Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, after scoring his first goal in Boston a night later, people will pay a great deal to see him make a bid for his first multi-point game in Montreal.
Some can still get into the Bell Centre for as little as $172.20, but that price might not be available for much longer, as the anticipation builds and we get closer to 7 p.m. ET Saturday.
Canadiens sniper Cole Caufield certainly wouldn’t suggest Bedard fans will get their money’s worth, but he understands the hype.
“I’d say his skating ability is unreal,” Caufield said. “You watch him out there and you think he’s been playing (in the NHL) for a couple of years, and he’s handling it (like) it’s no problem. I think there’s a lot of pressure on him that the media created, but he’s handled it really well.”
Bedard has been under it since well before he was taken first overall by the Chicago Blackhawks at the draft in June.
We first heard his name when he put up an astounding 88 points in 30 games as a 13-year-old in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. It proliferated beyond the borders of Canada and into the larger hockey world when he became the first-ever player granted exceptional status to play as a 15-year-old in the Western Hockey League. And it has grown exponentially ever since, as has the pressure of being labeled a generational talent and “The Next One.”
Like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid before him, Bedard has not only embraced it but also thrived under it.
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“He’s been in the spotlight for a while, and he handles it well,” said Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson on Friday. “We’ve met his family and they’re real humble people that are really supportive of him, and I think they’re around lots. And he’s with Newport, which is one of the bigger agencies. They’ve done a great job of just preparing him.
“He’s calm, he handles this well, and he really feels most comfortable on the ice. He just knows how to handle this with grace off the ice just to get him back on the ice, because that’s where he seems to be most comfortable.”
Bedard hasn’t appeared remotely uncomfortable on the ice through his first two NHL games—registering points, at least five shots and over 21 minutes of ice time in each one. Playing in front of the passionate fans of two of the more popular NHL franchises certainly didn’t rattle him either.
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Now the 18-year-old has a chance to do it in front of the fans in Montreal, at the Bell Centre, against the Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada, and he’s relishing that opportunity.
“You grow up watching Hockey Night in Canada as a kid,” Bedard said after Friday’s practice. “I remember always getting really excited for Saturday. Me and my dad—I don’t think my mom and my sister wanted to watch too much—we always tuned in, and obviously, it’s kind of like a tradition, I guess, in Canada. Every Saturday you’ve got that. So, it’s really exciting being in a Canadian city for their home opener. It’s going to be a lot of fun and we’re really looking forward to all of that.”
So are the fans.
Most of them bought their tickets within seconds of them going on sale this summer.
As for those still hoping to procure some, the most expensive ones available jumped by $150 in price over the course of this article being typed.