The lovely ladies, who don’t look too thrilled about having their picture taken with me, are waitresses. But not just any waitresses. These ladies worked at the Montreal Canadiens Restaurant, deep in the heart of Russia.
It didn’t stay open long, this place. Maybe a year or so. And maybe because it was an independent business with no legal links to the Habs organization. It was also just too pricey for most Russians.
I’d heard about it in 1999 and found it on a dark street in the core of St. Petersburg, and we ate there and drank vodka and looked at the gigantic mural of the city of Montreal as singers and dancers sang and danced on the nearby stage. It wasn’t a sports bar by any stretch of the imagination. More like cabaret meets hockey pucks.
The walls were lined with players’ images, Frank Mahovlich smiles behind us, and you could buy a Habs puck and a couple of other Hab-related things in the cloakroom. The manager showed us a stick signed by a bunch of NHL oldtimers like Bobby Hull and Guy Lafleur when they had played in St. Petersburg and had enjoyed a closed party after the game in this restaurant, and he was extremely proud and held it like the Holy Grail.
But this eatery was really expensive and it might have taken off in 2010 but ten years prior there just wasn’t a lot of extra money for the majority of Russians.
But it was nice to know that so far away, the Montreal Canadiens have an impact on people, and this place paid excellent homage to the team and city. Even with the Russian folk songs. It’s just too bad it didn’t make it.