23 March 2012
Posted in Chicago Fire
The Chicago Fire opened up the 2012 season in Montreal and as become tradition, they opened another stadium as visitors. As soon as the schedule was out, the Section 8 message boards lit up. Supporters immediately started to plan how they were going to get there for the game. This ranged from helping each other find rides or cheap flights and hotels. Hearing how great these road trips have been in the past, I decided to join in for my first real road trip.
The trip began Thursday night. Just 6 dudes in a van with nothing on their minds but Montreal. Also, there was another van of 5 guys close behind. I only really knew 2 of the other 5 guys in my van but had no hesitation about coming along for the ride. By the time the caravan rolled into the hotel, I would like to think they became more than just random passengers who hated the Crew as much as I did.
It only took a few minutes walking around Montreal before someone told our group "Go Impact!" I took this as a good sign the city was aware of the game the following day. The next few hours were spent recovering from the drive and seeing when fellow supporters were getting into town. It seemed plenty of us were in dire need of a nap or two. This down time was abruptly ended once we were invited to Fire practice at Olympic Stadium. We all quickly perked up and made the trek through Montreal to get to the stadium.
There's something great about watching your team play in an empty stadium while you're on the sidelines. It was a great gesture by the organization and the owner, Andrew Hauptman, came by and shook as many hands as he could. He thanked everyone for making the trip and the support they always give the team. The players did the same and spent some time talking to the supporters.
As awesome as that was, my favorite part of practice was meeting Ethan Stroud, a seven year old boy from Ottawa with an awesome hair cut and a great story. This kid was full of life and did not stop smiling the whole time I saw him. It was a pleasure to meet him and his mother. The Section 8 guys enjoyed having him at practice and gave him his very own FireHouse East scarf. The Fire players made sure to make the kid feel right at home and came over to sign his personalized jersey. To read more about his story, head over to MLSSOCCER.com to read Andrew Wiebe's article.
Game day finally came and Section 8 made it to Olympic Stadium ready to go. I don't think they were ready for us to chant and sing for 90 minutes but we did it anyway. We kept getting looks early on but the crowd seemed to adjust to us. Except for maybe the guy who threw some fries at us but oh well. Honestly, the game was kinda a blur but the experience was amazing. There is a special feeling when there are about 60 fans cheering for the away team and nearly 60,000 cheering for the home team and you are on the short end of that equation. The stadium might have seen better days but everyone in attendance did not mind one bit. We did not face too much hostility from the fans besides the usual couple of jerks but the security personnel was great. Several Impact fans made it a point to come over to talk to us and congratulate us on making the long journey to support our club. They seemed to genuinely appreciate us coming to Montreal and adding to the atmosphere.
After the well deserved point we earned on the road, we decided to hit the town. The Section hit up several spots in Montreal and consumed most of a cigar lounge at one point. The camaraderie in the room was great, even between people who had just met. Everyone seemed to just revel in the moment and take everything in. Throughout the night, supporters visited a couple local watering holes and tended to dominate wherever they went. En route to these places, we made sure to leave friendly reminders around town as to who had visited. The night ended at a karaoke bar that featured several great performances from Fire supporters. These songs ranged from "Summer Nights", "A Brave New World", "Forgot About Dre'" to group efforts for "Just Can't Get Enough", and "Keep on Loving You". We were the last group of people to leave the karaoke bar. It was a great way to end the night before the long journey home the following day.
I'll admit that I was just a bit unsure of how the trip was going to turn out but it definitely surpassed any sort of expectations I had placed. The way everyone comes together for this organization on the road is amazing. It does not matter if you are the new guy on tour or a grizzled veteran, you will be welcomed and helped out if you need anything. If any of this sounds like fun to you (and it should) check out the Section 8 Forums and see what road trips they are planning. They are a great way to support your team and explore a new city (or country). I'm signing for future road trips because I Just Can't Get Enough.
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