As a Canadian, Hockey Night in Canada is an institution for me. Even if I’m not a fan of the two teams playing (ie. the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs today), I’ll still watch every week. I don’t usually pay attention to what goes on in the pre-game stuff, but when the entire crowd started booing very loudly, I looked up at the TV.
Of all the things I expected to see, UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping standing on the ice in the Bell Centre wasn’t anywhere near the list.
Bisping and UFC 217 title challenger Georges St-Pierre continued their press tour for their big November 4th fight in Montreal today, coming out for a staredown and to drop the puck at center ice before the game. And hockey fans clearly understood what they were looking at, considering the derision that over 21,000 of them showered on Bisping.
St-Pierre came out next, and he got a standing ovation from his hometown crowd. Apparently four years away didn’t diminish his popularity in the slightest.
UFC president Dana White was there too, and the two fighters did a mock showdown with Bisping lipping off a bit. Mostly the three of them were just laughing though. This was probably a pretty weird environment for the English fighter that now lives in California, after all.
As GSP lined up so Dana White could drop the puck for a ceremonial face-off with the team captains, the crowd started chanting St-Pierre’s name.
MMA Junkie writer Chamatkar Sandhu also captured the moment with a pair of videos:
From this UFC Instagram story you can really get a sense for how hot this crowd was for GSP. Deafening. pic.twitter.com/yyfNYnG2oV— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) October 14, 2017
This was, by far, the best promotion that they have done for this fight yet. Yes, their constant insults and pushing at press conferences does generate some attention, but millions of Canadians watch Hockey Night in Canada, and they didn’t engage in any tomfoolery this time. Just a staredown, some chuckles, and some puck-dropping.
And those millions got to see just how beloved GSP still is in Montreal.