MONTREAL - Hockey is a religion in Quebec. Just ask the Roman Catholic Church.
The church is giving Habs fans a chance to support the only Canadian team in the Stanley Cup playoffs and do a little charity work by donating $1 to light a virtual candle on the www.laflammedesseries.ca website.
The contributions will go toward the church's annual fund drive.
The website went up on Wednesday before the Canadiens defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 in overtime in their first playoff game.
Already numerous virtual lights are twinkling off the page, along with messages of support such as "Go Habs Go" and a long prayer for Habs goalie Carey Price.
Xavier Blais, whose DentsuBos agency is behind the promotion, says the site has not been officially endorsed by the hockey team but the red, white and blue colours of the candles and its mention of "Sainte-Flanelle" leave little doubt as to the identity of the club in question.
"We hope that the fans' prayers will bring the team to the Holy Grail," he said, referring to the Stanley Cup.
"You might remember that Hockey Night in Canada was the mass on Saturday before the mass on Sunday," Blais observed. "Let's face it, hockey has always been a religion in Quebec."
Blais said the comments on the site are monitored.
"We're not going to stop the fans from being fans," he said. "We're not necessarily going to moderate the (messages) that speak badly of Tampa Bay but all comments that are considered disgraceful or defamatory will be revised on the spot."
It's not the first time the church in Montreal has jumped on the hockey bandwagon.
Its annual fundraising ads published in newspapers two years ago encouraged fans to pray for the team.
This year's campaign will continue as long as the Canadiens remain in the playoffs.
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