MONTREAL—Before the Habs skate out onto the ice on Saturday to face Toronto, the closest they’ll come to a pre-season was the 17,000 screaming fans who watched an intra-squad game of red versus white on Thursday.

With the doors of the Bell Centre opening at 5 p.m., promising free professional hockey with complimentary drinks and hotdogs, some fans began to line up early in what was a frigid day.

“I’m very cold, but a lot of coffee is gonna defrost me,” said one fan.

Predictions of fans turning away due to a bruising four-month lockout didn’t hold true for the diehards. Thursday’s scrimmage was part of management’s plan to encourage fans to forgive and forget.

“You feel like there's a buzz in the air so everybody is really happy for every reason. The fact that they're back and also it's good for business,” said Antoinette Ippolito, the manager of the nearby Madison’s.

Business was good at the Habs Zone store where all Bleu-Blanc-Rouge merchandise was 50 per cent off on game day, helping some fans gear up for a shortened season.

For some, one thing is still missing.

“PK's gotta get signed, 100 per cent other than that, can't wait,” said one fan, alluding to favourite player P.K. Subban.

During the game’s second period, fans chanted “We want P.K.” The unsigned player wasn’t at the game due to prolonged contract negotiations.

After two periods, both squads were evenly matched at 3-3, leading to a blistering round of shootout practice for Habs goalies Carey Price and Peter Budaj.