Centre Bell

This article is about the home arena of the Montreal Canadiens. For the village in Wisconsin, see Bell Center, Wisconsin. For the unincorporated community in Indiana, see Bell Center, Indiana.
Centre Bell
Former names New Montreal Forum (pre-construction–1996)
Molson Centre, Centre Molson (1996–2002)
Address 1909, avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal[1]
Location Montreal, Quebec
Coordinates 45°29′46″N 73°34′10″W / 45.49611°N 73.56944°W / 45.49611; -73.56944Coordinates: 45°29′46″N 73°34′10″W / 45.49611°N 73.56944°W / 45.49611; -73.56944
Public transit
Owner Molson family
Operator Molson family
Capacity Hockey: 21,288
Basketball: 22,114
Concerts: 15,000
Amphitheatre: 10,000 to 14,000
Theatre: 5,000 to 9,000
Hemicycle: 2,000 to 3,500
MMA: 16,000 to 23,152
Field size 780,000 square feet (72,000 m2)
Broke ground June 22, 1993
Opened March 16, 1996
Construction cost C$270 million
($385 million in 2016 dollars[2])
Architect LeMay & Associate, LLC.[3]
LeMoyne Lapointe Magne[3]
Project manager IBI/DAA Group[4]
Structural engineer Dessau[5]
Services engineer SNC-Lavalin[6]
General contractor Huber, Hunt & Nichols[7]
Montreal Canadiens (NHL) (1996–present)
Montreal Impact (NPSL) (1997–2000)
Montreal Rocket (QMJHL) (2001–2003)
Montreal Express (NLL) (2002)

Centre Bell (also referred to as the Bell Centre in English language media) is a sports and entertainment complex in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It opened on March 16, 1996 after nearly three years under construction. It is best known as the home of the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team. It was previously called Centre Molson.

It is currently owned by a partnership group headed by Geoff Molson and his brothers, Andrew and Justin. The same ownership group also owns the Montreal Canadiens and Evenko, an entertainment event promoter.[8] Since it opened in 1996, it has consistently been listed as one of the world's busiest arenas, usually receiving the highest attendance of any arena in Canada.[9] In 2012, it was the fifth-busiest arena in the world based on ticket sales for non-sporting events.[10]


Construction began on the site on June 22, 1993, almost two weeks after the Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings at the Forum for their 24th and most recent Stanley Cup. The name of the arena initially reflected Molson, Inc., a brewing company which was owner of the Canadiens at the time. Molson elected not to keep the naming rights when they sold the team and the name was officially changed on September 1, 2002, after Bell Canada acquired the naming rights.

On October 14, 2015, it was announced that Centre Bell would undergo renovations, including renovated hallways and concessions, new restaurants, public Wi-Fi, and the planned conversion of Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal (the section of De la Gauchetière Street on which the arena is situated) into a pedestrian-only street. The renovations, which are not expected to interfere with normal operations, have a budget of $100 million.[11]


Centre Bell is located in downtown Montreal, near the corner of Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal (formerly Rue de la Gauchetière Ouest) and De La Montagne Street. The Lucien L'Allier station, to which it is connected, is next door on that corner. In addition it is located across the street from the 1250 René-Lévesque skyscraper. It is easily accessible by public transportation, as it is linked to both Lucien-L'Allier and Bonaventure Metro stations. It is also connected to the underground city and Central Station.

Arena information

Inside the arena during a hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres
The newly fitted electronic scoreboard in 2008

The building covers an area of 1.568 hectares or 3.87 acres (15,680 square metres or 168,778 square feet). It has a seating capacity of 21,288,[12] making it the largest hockey arena in the world. It also holds four restaurants, the most popular being La Cage aux Sports, which is one of the largest sports restaurants/bars in Montreal.[13]

Capacities of the Centre are:[14][15]

The public address announcer for the Canadiens' games is Michel Lacroix, while the national anthem singer alternates every home game as they do not have a regular singer since Charles Prevost-Linton, who didn't have a formal contract, wasn't asked to return at the end of the 2013-2014 season. Madame Diane Bibeau plays the organ on Saturday nights.

A new scoreboard was installed prior of the 2008-2009 season. The new scoreboard consist of four 510 square foot video panels. It was the biggest in the NHL until 2012 when Tampa Bay installed their new scoreboard.[16]

It is one of only two NHL arenas that uses an old-style siren to mark the end of periods instead of a horn; the other is TD Garden in Boston. Each siren was inherited from each arena's predecessor facility in each case: coming from the disused Montreal Forum and the Boston Garden respectively.


Unlike most North American arenas, which have generally been designed by Populous and its predecessors, Centre Bell was designed by a local consortium, and has many unique design features. The grandstands are sloped steeply, to improve sight lines. Washrooms on the 100 level are centralized on a specific lower level located at each end.

Centre Bell is arranged in a three-tier layout: The lower 100 section, commonly referred to as "the reds" since these seats are painted red; the 200 section, known as "Club Desjardins"), and the upper 300-400 section.

The Club Desjardins section is premium section between two levels of private and corporate boxes. Larger seats and free food and non-alcoholic drinks are provided.

The 300-400 section is divided into three zones by seat colour: white section rows AA-FF, the grey section rows A-D, and the blue section, labelled "400," and consists of rows A-D. The ends of the 400 section are further divided into two more groups. At the end the Canadiens shoot towards twice is the Coors Light Zone, featuring section cheerleaders and a band playing in the hallway. At the opposite end is the Family Zone, featuring child-specific ticket prices and limited alcohol.

Seats behind the press gondola, in Sections 318, 319, and 320, feature their own scoreboards on the back of the gondola, due to the normal scoreboard being blocked.


The Canadiens' locker room.

After some early complaints of a generic feel, especially compared to the Forum, the Canadiens started to incrementally decorate the building with celebrations of the team's history, including a ring of players around the top level of seating. The Molson Ex Zone features a live band stage and its own red theme.


Centre Bell is also the primary concert venue for major performances. Most shows put on by big acts visit the arena unless they require more room than is available in a hockey rink-sized facility; in which case the Olympic Stadium is used, or less frequently, Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Concerts by Celine Dion for August 15 and 16, 2008 were sold out within six minutes. The next day, Dion's management added two more concert dates on August 18 and 20, 2008. A further seven dates were added bringing the total to 11 shows and 246,000 spectators. She set a record in the history of Canadian concerts when all eleven shows sold out within an hour. By her 11th concert, she played Centre Bell 31 times since 1996.[17] The Montreal concerts grossed just over $30 million, making it one of the biggest arena concert events in history.


The final two games of the three-game 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship series were held at Centre Bell (the USA won both games, defeating Canada in the series 2–1). Centre Bell was also host to two pool games in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. The Bell Centre was the host of the 2009 NHL All-Star Game and hosted the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Centre Bell was the venue of the first UFC event (UFC 83) to take place in Canada, held in April 2008. The show was headlined by a rematch between Welterweight champion Matt Serra and Montreal native Georges St-Pierre. The tickets available to the public sold out in under one minute, and the event set the all time UFC attendance record, at that time (since surpassed by UFC 129 in Toronto). Other UFC events have subsequently been held at Centre Bell, including UFC 97, UFC 113, UFC 124, UFC 154 and UFC 158, the most recent three of which were headlined by St-Pierre.

Centre Bell hosted an NBA basketball game for the first time on Friday October 22, 2010, a preseason game featuring the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks. Another preseason game, featuring the same teams, was held on October 19, 2012. On October 20, 2013, Centre Bell hosted its third preseason game featuring the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Another Toronto/NY preseason game was held at the arena on October 24, 2014. On October 23, 2015, Centre Bell hosted its fifth preseason game featuring the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards.

It has also hosted WWE events regularly and in recent years has boasted one of the loudest crowds in WWE. The most infamous event that took place at the arena was Survivor Series 1997, during which the well-known Montreal Screwjob incident occurred. It also hosted No Way Out in 2003 and Breaking Point in 2009. It was during an episode of Raw in 2012, Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack during the broadcast.

Centre Bell in a basketball configuration.

Montreal Canadiens home games have been consistently sold out since January 2004.[18] Additionally, the Canadiens have among the top attendance figures in the NHL. For the 2009-2010 season, the Habs had the highest attendance played at their home arena.[19] All 21,273 seats were sold in 45 minutes on May 12, 2010 for fans to watch the 7th game in the playoff series versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, which was shown on the big screens. Noise levels in the arena allegedly reached as high as 135 dB when goals were scored by the Canadiens, most notably, during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, during Game #6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 10, 2010,[20] making it one of the loudest NHL arenas during hockey games.

On December 9, 2014, the Canadiens hosted the Vancouver Canucks, the first home game since the death of Jean Béliveau. The game was preceded by a memorial tribute to him. Centre Bell remained sold-out that night with 21,286 fans in attendance and one empty seat left for Mr. Beliveau, with the official attendance shortened by one to honour him.[21]

Four preseason NBA games played on October 19, 2012 between the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks, October 20, 2013 between the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves, October 24, 2014 between the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks, and October 23, 2015 between the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards were all sell-outs.

Retired jerseys

The following numbers have been retired by the Canadiens (positions in parentheses) and hang from the rafters:

While Lach and Henri Richard both wore the number 16, they were given separate ceremonies unlike Cournoyer and Moore. All have their own banner.

On October 18, 2005, the Canadiens also raised the following numbers on a single banner in honour of the former MLB team Montreal Expos, who left the city for Washington, D.C. after the 2004 season:

The only other banners hanging from the rafters at Centre Bell are those of the Canadiens' Stanley Cup championship banners. Unlike other NHL arenas, the Canadiens do not display division or conference championship banners, despite the fact they have won many championships over the years (including 24 Stanley Cups). At Bell Centre, as had the Forum, only Stanley Cup championship banners are raised to the rafters.

See also


  1. "Directions and Parking". Centre Bell. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  2. Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada. "Consumer Price Index, historical summary". CANSIM, table (for fee) 326-0021 and Catalogue nos. 62-001-X, 62-010-X and 62-557-X. And Consumer Price Index, by province (monthly) (Canada) Last modified 2016-01-22. Retrieved March 2, 2016
  3. 1 2 Chronology - HW: World Wide Habs Fans Community Archived May 31, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "Centre Bell". IBI/DAA Group. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  5. "Bell Centre". Dessau. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  6. "Buildings". SNC-Lavalin. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  7. "Bell Centre". Ballparks.com. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  8. Associated Press (December 1, 2009). "Habs' Sale to Molson Family Approved". ESPN. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  9. Bouchard, Dany (January 11, 2006). "The best Bell Centre". Canoë. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  10. "2012 Year End Worldwide Ticket Sales Top 100 Arena Venues" (PDF). Pollstar. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  11. "Bell Centre to undergo $100 million renovation". CTV Montreal. Bell Media. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  12. 1 2 "Close to $100 million to be invested at the Bell Centre" (Press release). Montreal Canadiens. 2015-10-14. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  13. "La Cage aux Sports". Bell Centre. Archived from the original on March 4, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  14. Centre Bell (2009). "Centre Bell - Our History". Centre Bell. Archived from the original on June 23, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  15. Centre Bell (2009). "Centre Bell - Venue Specifications". Centre Bell. Archived from the original on June 23, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  16. http://tbo.com/sports/lightning/tampa-forum-adding-record-size-high-def-video-board-399775
  17. "Céline Dion: Eighth Show Added". Matin (in French). The Canadian Press. February 9, 2008. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved February 9, 2008.
  18. "Season Ticket Waiting List". Montreal Canadiens. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  19. NHL attendance
  20. Turgeon, Pierre (May 22, 2010). "An Awfully Strong Playoff Fever". La Tribune (in French). Cyberpresse. Archived from the original on May 25, 2010. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  21. http://www.thesportmarket.biz/charts/sellout%20streaks/ranktop.html[]
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Centre Bell.
Events and tenants
Preceded by
Montreal Forum
Home of the
Montreal Canadiens

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Philips Arena
Host of the
NHL All-Star Game

Succeeded by
RBC Center
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