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5 things to know about Montreal, the Rays’ potential second home

It’s got poutine, hockey and a healthy dose of competition, language-wise.

As the idea to host part of the Tampa Bay Rays’ season in Montreal looms, here are five things to know about the city that could potentially share a baseball team with Tampa Bay.

1. It’s home to the Canadiens

Lots of facts about the Montreal Canadiens are major. After all, the team is hockey’s version of the New York Yankees.

They’ve won 24 Stanley Cups, making them the most successful franchise in the National Hockey League. The Canadiens’ home arena in downtown Montreal, the Bell Centre, is the largest hockey arena in North America, with a capacity of just over 20,000, according to its website.

Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers lifts the Stanley Cup above his head in this 1993 photo, after his team defeated the Los Angeles Kings to win the franchise's 24th Stanley Cup. To date, the Canadiens have yet to win another Stanley Cup. (AP Photo/Jacques Boissinot)


2. There are a bunch of monuments left over from two major events it hosted. Some of them are iconic.

Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics and Expo 67, the city’s World’s Fair. Fun fact about those Olympics: Montreal was the only Olympic Games that featured athlete Bruce (now Caitlin) Jenner of Keeping Up With the Kardashians fame. She won a gold medal in the decathlon. Fun fact about Expo 67: the Montreal Expos took their name from the event.

In this July 30, 1976 photo, Bruce Jenner , of the United States, leaps in the air as he crosses the finish line in the 1,500-meter race to secure the gold medal in the decathlon at the Olympics in Montreal, Canada. (AP Photo/File)

But the lasting things from both events include problem-plagued Olympic Stadium, whose retractable roof wasn’t ready in time for the Olympics and tore repeatedly for 10 years, according to the Montreal Gazette. But the paper reported that the stadium is getting a new retractable roof in preparation for the 2026 World Cup. Montreal is expected to host at least three games.

The Expos played home games at Olympic Stadium from 1976 to 2004, when the team relocated to Washington, D.C. The team’s last game was played on Sept. 29, 2004, a loss to the Florida Marlins.

Other holdovers include Habitat 67, a concrete Lego block-esque housing complex; Biosphere, a transparent sphere that doubles as an environment museum; and the two pyramid-shaped buildings that were the Olympic Village (now condominiums).

Fans crowd the outfield at Olympic Stadium prior to the Montreal Expos game against the Florida Marlins in Montreal, Sept. 29, 2004. (AP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)


3. Poutine is one of its iconic foods.

This photo shows a serving of poutine at New York's Dive Bar. This guilty pleasure of extra-crispy french fries, meaty gravy and cheese curds has been called the national dish of Canada. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The concoction of French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy is about as Quebecois as it gets. The solid facts of its origin story: it originates from rural Quebec in the late 1950s. Beyond that, the restauranteurs who claim poutine as their invention are numerous.

Here in Tampa Bay, Mise en Place in Tampa serves up variations of poutine. Stillwaters Tavern in St. Petersburg replaces the usual brown gravy with BBQ sauce for its version.

4. French vs. English

Street signs on Ville-Marie Blvd with exit descriptions in French (Google Maps)

Technically, Montreal is a city of French speakers. English speakers just live in it. French is the official language of Quebec, the province Montreal is located in. This was laid out in a 1977 law in Quebec called the Charter of the French Language. So, place names and street signs are often in French.

Canada’s 2016 census shows over half of Montreal’s population of 4 million speaks both French and English. Only about 300,000 speak English alone. Nearly 1.5 million speak only in French.

5. Montreal foods round 2: Bagels and smoked meat

Beyond poutine, Montreal also has a reputation for bagels.

Two of the places that often come up are St-Viateur and Fairmount Bagel, and they have a lot in common. Located just a few blocks from each other, both shops are open 24 hours . St Viateur and Fairmount have history dating back to the late 1910s and early 1950s, respectively.

Another Montreal specialty: smoked meat, similar to brisket. Places like Schwartz’s, which opened on St. Laurent Blvd in 1928, have been staples in the city.

A smoked meat sandwich and fries from Schwartz's. [Claire McNeill | Times]



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