MONTREAL -- Montrealers may be sweating this week, but despite what the calendar says, it’s playoff season.

The last Habs game was March 10. Pro hockey starting up again this week feels weird, even for people in the business.

“I’ve never ever thought about hockey in the summer, let alone [announced] it,” said Dan Robertson, a play-by-play announcer for TSN 690.

“It's really strange.”

But loyal fans are starting to generate some buzz again, so those who know them well.

“It’s like a new season,” says Dominique Perazzino of Chez Menick barbershop, whose clients have been talking hockey.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that the stakes are so low for tonight’s exhibition game against the Maple Leafs, said one man.

“If you win, you can say you’ve got a great team,” he pointed out. “If you lose, you can say it’s just a practice.”

Downtown bars and restaurants in particular are hoping that spirit holds up as they try to find ways to create game days that are properly distanced. Establishments in the heart of Montreal have been suffering the most, business-wise, with the loss of office workers and tourists.

“We're excited to have the sports back, especially two Canadian teams right now,” said Natalie Rydzik of McLean’s Pub. 

Robertson’s prediction, after spending years immersed in Habs fandom? Montrealers will stay tuned for the shortened playoff season—“because we’re so starved, not just for hockey bur for normalcy.”