MONTREAL – So the bell did ring.
It took 54 minutes, but on Sunday the 44-inch cast iron bell – dubbed the “North Star,” as determined by a Twitter fan vote – installed in the Stade Saputo East Stand by supporters group 1642 MTL finally resonated throughout the ground, thanks to Didier Drogba.
And who better than the Mayor of the City of a Hundred Steeples to ring it?
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre responded to the group’s registered mail invitation, and joined them in Stade Saputo’s Section 114 to take in the full experience. His two bodyguards, following their due diligence prior to the game, had gotten seats reserved for him and his family. They were not used.
“He said ‘No, no, no,’” 1642 MTL co-founder Anthony Lizzi tells MLSsoccer.com by phone. “‘I’m staying here. It’s fun here. Alex, come!’”
Mayor Coderre’s son Alexandre also spent the game in the front row, where Lizzi took a picture of them both. Coderre, the most social media-savvy of Quebec politicians, was quick to notice what pull the Montreal-Toronto game was getting online.
“He was showing me his phone, right after I took a picture of him and his son with the bell,” Lizzi says. “He said ‘Hey, the bell is everywhere, man. The team is everywhere tonight. We’re everywhere. It’s going viral.’ He pays attention to that.”
Coderre also retweeted a short video of him ringing the bell for the first time, a handy resource for anyone that watched the game at the stadium but wasn’t sitting anywhere near the bell. The noise of the crowd celebrating two Drogba goals in two minutes was simply too much for the bell to handle.
“This is what we’re going to do,” Lizzi recalls telling the mayor before the game. “When the goal happens, there’s a goal celebration. Let that burst of energy be itself. … Start ringing it when it starts to subside a little bit, or you hear the name of the player on the PA system.
“So the goal happens,” Lizzi continues, with a laugh. “He turns around to me and goes ‘Okay! We’re ringing the bell!’ And he gets up there and starts ringing it right away. I’m like, Okay. Am I going to tell him to stop? No. … It was a good visual, but it was just rung at the wrong time.”
Viewers at home could hear it loud and clear, though, and the Mayor of Montreal ringing the bell did make for good television. 1642 MTL wanted the Mayor to help them raise awareness for the bell and the team, and raise awareness they did.
And they want to keep going.
“We had asked other people to come,” Lizzi says. “We asked [Montreal-born singer-songwriter] Sam Roberts. We wanted Montrealers to come. That was the thought behind all of it. Get me Sam Roberts, get me Céline Dion, I don’t care. Get me some star power, because let’s rise the profile of the sport. That’s really it.
“Let’s up the profile of the sport, and let’s get more people to the stadium. One guy got it right on Twitter: more high-profile people means more people watching, means a few dollars more, means better Designated Players.”
With only three days left before the next home game, another Montreal-Toronto rivalry game in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs on Thursday (7 pm ET; UniMás in US, TSN, RDS in Canada), 1642 MTL have yet to nail down their celebrity bell-ringer. They’ll have to make it quick.
“Or Rachel Bonnetta,” Lizzi says. “Get her to ring it.”
Yeah, maybe later in the playoffs. For obvious reasons.