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The Montreal club, whose four members have won the Stanley Cup, is rising from its ashes

The Montreal club, whose four members have won the Stanley Cup, is rising from its ashes

Four Stanley Cups, a Gray Cup and Canada’s first individual Olympic gold medal. These are just some of the accomplishments achieved by members of the legendary training center in Montreal.

• Read also: [À voir] The great history of MAA Sportif in pictures

After four years of reconstruction – the length of an Olympic cycle, as three-time Olympic short track speed skating medalist Natalie Lambert points out – MAA Sportif reopened its doors at the beginning of the month, “ready for another 100 years.”

“We are telling the world that we are back, we are here, we exist. It is a completely new club, there is only the historic facade, the windows and the stained glass windows that have been restored.I Lambert, who is now the director of sports programs and communications for one of the oldest sports clubs in North America.

Pierre-Paul Poulin / Le Journal de Montreal

the queen

After one hundred and forty-two years of its existence, it is magnificent and unique, which is why a little bit of history has been preserved, including the entrance door dating back to 1905.

“Lord Stanley opened it, so did Queen Elizabeth II, or someone did for her!” shouted the club’s president and general manager, Pierre Blanchet, to the hundred guests who came to welcome the reopening of the gym. By my calculations, this door has been crossed about 15 million times. »

“Except for banks, there are not many Montreal institutions that have prospered for so long,” he added proudly. The club has survived two wars and two epidemics. »

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He was falling apart

Therefore, the building on Bell Street in the city center was rebuilt, as a nod to the heroes who were members of the club. The building fell into disrepair in 2018: plumbing, piping, ventilation and structural problems. So Montreal’s 80 shareholders chose to invest millions of dollars – they want the amount to remain secret – after saving MAA from bankruptcy in 1998. They joined the Devimco Group, which is building a residential tower on top of Montreal buildings. Luxury training center.

The 2,500 to 3,000 members will find and discover a club with seven studios to enjoy Pilates, yoga, boxing, dancing, cycling, PowerWatts and aerial circus, among others, without forgetting the fitness room. Squash, pickleball and basketball courts, plus a weight board. The experience is completed with steam baths, whirlpool, sauna, sports clinic and restaurant.

“I wanted to train here when I was an athlete,” M admittedI Lambert. We were in Maurice Richard Square and next to the Claude Robillard Centre, and we were cold! »

MAA Club

Bruni Soren can’t wait to train at MAA Club Sportif.

Pierre-Paul Poulin / Le Journal de Montreal

Always competitive

Indeed, during the guided tour, Olympic short track champion Olivier Jean hopped on stationary bikes. He was soon joined by Marc Gagnon, a five-time Olympic medalist, including three times when he took gold. The competitive spirit is never far away.

“I would love to spin here,” said Gagnon, who is training to run the Montreal Half Marathon with his partner.

“I don’t really like it!” I confess. Let’s say 15 km away [sur 21]I feel the full weight of my 190 lbs! »

If there’s anyone who’s bored while the club is closed, it’s Bruni Soren. The 1996 Olympic champion in the 4×100-meter relay in Atlanta has lacked motivation during the pandemic. Despite his busy schedule – he will be the head of delegation for Team Canada at the Paris Games next summer – Soren is looking forward to reconnecting with the MAA atmosphere.

“My body no longer allows me to run, so I do elliptical running. I’m interested in boxing, swimming, bodybuilding, and to a lesser extent Pilates. Maybe a little yoga and I wouldn’t say no to dancing!”

MAA Club

Former speed skater Olivier Jean

Photo by Mylene Richard

Inspiration and prestige

Among the other Olympians attending the reopening was Marie-Andre Lessard. The former beach volleyball player has been a member of the MAA since 2000.

“I feel inspired, but I’m not riding my bike anymore. The performance is over, I just want to stay fit,” said the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) Games Director.

For her part, Sandra Sassine made use of the club’s facilities during part of her fencing career.

“It’s a prestigious place. History follows us and we want to take a moment for ourselves, to tell ourselves that we deserve it,” commented COC’s Director of Sports Marketing and Olympic Heritage.

Fellow newcomer Emily Fornell, project manager at COC, remembers that she loved training with the MAA community, in contrast to her solo routine on the water.

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“Today, I would be more interested in circuit training,” the former kayaker said. It’s fast and efficient, especially when you have a 5-year-old daughter and feel like you’re working hard. »

MAA Club

Nathalie Lambert, Sandra Sassen, Marc Gagnon, Emilie Fornel and Marie-André Lessard, during the reopening of the MAA Sportif club, on September 7, 2023.

Photo courtesy of MAA Athletic Club, Ismael Djenet

◀ Other dignitaries, including presenters Patrice Lecuir, Anne-Marie Wythenshawe, Kim Sullivan and Jay Walker, attended the MAA reopening, as did Dick Pound, former Olympic swimmer, former member of the International Olympic Committee and former head of the MAA World Anti-Doping Agency.

MAA Club

Richard “Dick” Pound, Natalie Lambert and Bruni Soren

Photo courtesy of MAA Athletic Club. Ismail Jenet