The recent idea hatched by Max Talbot and Bruno Gervais to put on hockey games in small arenas around Quebec and give the proceeds to charity came to fruition on Sept. 27 as La Tournee des Joueurs played its first game in Chateauguay. Split into teams representing Montreal and Quebec, the Montreal team beat Quebec 7-4.
Boston Bruins fans, three men who have worn or still wear the Spoked B were in this game. Among the winning team was former Bruin Steve Begin. The losing side included former Bruin Benoit Pouliot and current Bruin Patrice Bergeron.
Bergeron put up two assists and Pouliot scored for Quebec, but that wasn't enough to counteract the Montreal attack. In the end, though, the score probably mattered very little to the more than 1,200 fans in attendance. Gervais said (in French, but run through Google Translate for basic understanding) that he could hear fans shouting their thanks from the stands and Guillaume Latendresse could feel the energy even though there weren't as many people in the arena as he was used to seeing.
Tickets were priced at a reasonable $20, allowing fans to see their favorites for a much more budget-friendly price than at some NHL arenas. Take 14-year-old fan Lilianne Demers, for example. At the Tournee des Joueurs game, she was able to sit in the front row and see her favorite player, Lars Eller, up close and personal. To do that same thing at Montreal's Bell Centre, Demers would need to pay upwards of $250.
For his part, Bergeron said he enjoyed the experience of playing and the opportunity to keep himself in tiptop shape. He sounded cautiously optimistic about the fact that the NHL and NHLPA will meet for three days to talk about the issues, but personally feels there is some ground left to cover. He felt that he and the players would have been willing to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement while simultaneously going to training camp and preseason games--the owners, though, didn't share that view of things.
He even kept it light by joking that Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, his usual linemates, need to buy him a nice meal because of their more lucrative new contracts. At least for Seguin, though, it will need to wait since he is over in Switzerland now. Speaking of Switzerland, previous reports said that Bergeron was considering playing there as well, but nothing has been decided yet.
Maybe he will participate in more La Tournee des Joueurs games in the meantime. Next week, the tournament moves to Saint-Hyacinthe and Sherbrooke for their next two games, which are sure to draw crowds again. For fans like me who crave whatever hockey they can get while the owners and players try to sort things out, La Tournee des Joueurs provides a nice relief from the tangled-up world of negotiations.
Emma Harger is a Boston Bruins fan who will now add La Tournee des Joueurs to her ever-expanding list of teams to follow during the NHL lockout.
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