On Saturday, the Nashville Predators will begin a three-game road trip that includes a difficult back-to-back when they visit the Bell Centre to take on the Montreal Canadiens before visiting the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night. The Predators then play in Minnesota on Tuesday before returning home for two games at the end of next week.
The trip to Montreal will mark Gabriel Bourque’s first National Hockey League game played in his home province of Quebec. It is a homecoming for the 23-year old that has been a long time coming, after playing 83 regular season games over the span of the last three seasons.
“It will be nice. I’m excited for that game,” the forward said. “It is going to be nice to have all my family there.”
About 30 members of Bourque’s family will be making the long trip from the northern Quebec parish municipality of Saint-Michel-du-Squatec to Montreal to watch the Predators forward.
Bourque was born in Rimouski, Quebec but considers Saint-Michel-du-Squatec his hometown. According to the 2011 Canadian Census, the municipality has a population of 1,171.
The 5-foot-10, 192 lbs forward grew up a Montreal Canadiens fan, but it is more than a six-hour drive from Saint-Michel-du-Squatec to Montreal and distance kept Bourque away as a child.
“I’ve always been looking forward to playing against Montreal. [Growing up] I was really far away. I did go to one game. It was pretty cool,” he said.
Last year’s shortened season didn’t feature any games between the Western and Eastern Conference teams. Bourque played his first NHL game on Dec. 28, 2011 and the Predators did not visit the Canadiens that season. When the Canadiens were in Nashville that November, the winger was still playing for the Milwaukee Admirals.
It has to make it extra special for Bourque that the game will be played on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.