What do all these major sporting events in Montreal have in common?

The presence of Pierre Mailhot.

“The more I mention it, the more I feel like the Forrest Gump of Montreal sport! “, said the 59-year-old man with a laugh, in an interview with La Presse.

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He was there for the Impact’s three championships, in 1994, 2004 and 2009. He attended the Survivor Series “Montreal Screwjob” at the Molson Center in 1997. He welcomed Didier Drogba at the Montreal airport. Dorval in 2015, then witnessed his hat trick at Saputo Stadium a few weeks later. The Major League Baseball All-Star game in Montreal in 1982? You guessed it: he was there.

But when he received our interview request, Pierre Mailhot did not immediately accept. He wanted to think about it.

“Because the important thing is not me the partisan,” he said. These are the matches, the events, the teams, the athletes that I saw play. The spotlight should be on them, not me. I am only privileged to have had the passion and financial means to be present on so many occasions. »

We finally meet in a café in Côte-des-Neiges, in mid-November. Outside, a fine snow wets the cold asphalt. Two days earlier, the Alouettes won their first Gray Cup in 13 years. On the head of our interlocutor, a Sparrows cap, he who has been a season subscriber since the mid-1990s.

For the record, after the Alouettes parade downtown the day after our interview, he was able to touch the Gray Cup. He stood near the stage installed at the Place des Festivals where all the members of the organization appeared, accompanied by the precious trophy.

Almost exceptionally, due to his health, he was not in Hamilton to see Cody Fajardo throw a winning touchdown pass to Tyson Philpot with 13 seconds left on the clock. But for him, this kind of moment where the “spirit of communion” resounds in a sports arena is worth all these entry prices alone.

As such, what is the best atmosphere he has experienced? Jaroslav Halak’s performance in Game 6 of the series against the Washington Capitals in 2010.

He also mentions Cameron Porter’s goal to put the Impact in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2015. “Frédéric Lord said it well when you listen to the description: the Stadium exploded. »

In addition to the Alouettes, Sambapete has had a season ticket from CF Montreal since 2008. From the Canadiens since 2004. He subscribed to the Alliance for next season. “When you realize that you’ve seen eight out of ten matches at home…”

He has even already subscribed to the Royal de Montréal, the Ultimate Frisbee team!

But his sport is Formula 1. “I’ve attended all the Montreal Grands Prix,” he says.

Gilles Villeneuve was his first childhood idol. The Montreal computer scientist got his bug in 1978, when he was 14 years old.

“I was at the Grand Prix when Gilles won his first race. I had a general admission ticket: $10. I still have it at home. »

Really, every Grand Prix in Montreal, without exception?

“[In 1995] I was working for Ericsson and I was in Sweden. Saturday morning I arrived jetlagged, but it allowed me to see Jean Alesi’s only victory in Formula 1, with number 27 in Montreal. »

Best race he’s been to? “Jenson Button’s victory in Montreal. He made five saves. He was behind Vettel. Vettel escaped him in a corner on the last lap and [Button] passed. It didn’t make any sense. »

Sambapete is very active on X, formerly Twitter. Some Internet users he has encountered at sporting events even consider him a “legend of Montreal sport,” he says, in a humble tone that suggests skepticism in this regard.

If F1 is his hobby, the Impact is the club he follows most assiduously and about which he talks the most on his social networks. He also made several trips, notably with the Ultras, to follow the team on the road.

Last year, he even received a nice invitation from 1642 MTL, a group of CF Montreal supporters, to go ring the bell at Saputo stadium.

“I was a little embarrassed,” he says. Everyone on Twitter seemed to be saying it was a really good idea. [CFM president] Gabriel Gervais came to talk to me, and someone from the club came to wear a jersey for me with my name on the back and the number 30 [as for the club’s 30th anniversary]. It was a nice gesture. »

He went to Vancouver for the club’s first match in MLS, in 2012. Happy coincidence: the Canadian played in Vancouver the same evening. Obviously, he attends both events. “If you knew the steps I took to get a ticket to the CH match that evening…”

Pierre Mailhot also shares his moods on X, as well as some of his health problems. In an interview, he assured that it was “nothing serious”.

But recently, the unprecedented: sick, he “forgot” that there was a Canadian game at the Bell Center.

The same week, he missed the Canadians’ game against the Brazilians at Saputo Stadium, then that of the Alouettes the same day. A few days later, he had to cancel his presence at the Laval Rocket.

Don’t worry, he’s since recovered: a few days after our interview, he was going to spend the weekend at Place Bell for the NCAA Basketball North Classic.

You will have understood that our interlocutor has some anecdotes. And well beyond what he tells us during the hour and a half that our interview will last.

“I could surely make an effort to find one anecdote per year since 1977, at least,” says the man who was born in Ville-Émard in 1964.

Pierre Mailhot lives alone, without children. But he has the company of his local teams, whom he supports “when it rains and when it’s sunny,” he illustrates.

For a long time, he didn’t own an HD television. A friend wondered why. His answer ?

“Because I’m here in 3D! »