No the NHL is not back in action. That would entail The Two Egos That Walk – Gary ‘Little Man’ Bettman and Donald ‘This Is My Sandbox’ Fehr – actually getting down off their soapboxes, rolling up their sleeves and making an effort to find a solution so that us fans can see some hockey.
But there will be some hockey, with La tournee des joeurs, which kicks off with a game Thursday night at the Centre Multisports in Chateauguay. This is an initiative of two Quebec players on the Philadelphia Flyers, Maxime Talbot and Bruno Gervais, who were talking it up on Tout le monde en parle last Sunday. They have set up two teams, Montreal and Quebec, and will play a series of friendlies as we say in the world of soccer (eds. note: Isn’t that ‘football’ mate?) in the coming days.
This is one star-studded line-up. The Montreal Not-the-Habs bench includes goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov (!), Gervais, Brian Gionta, Jason Pominville, Colby Armstrong, Derick Brassard, Talbot, Mathieu Darche, Steve Begin, Guillaume Latendresse, and Alexandre Burrows. The Quebec Not-Nordiques includes netminder Jonathan Bernier, Brandon Prust, Francis Bouillon, Roman ‘The Hammer’ Hamrlik, Lars Eller, Benoit Pouliot, David Perron, Simon Gagne, Marc-Edouard Viasic, David Desharnais, Steve Bernier, Mathieu Perreault, and Travis Moen.
In short, for twenty bucks you’ll see way more talent than you would at your average Habs game (which would set you back a lot more than $20). Gaston Therrien will coach Montreal while TVA host-with-the-most Dave Morissette will be running the Quebec bench.
Will it be great hockey? Of course not. My favourite sportscaster – sorry Randy Tieman! – Andie Bennett from Daybreak had tape of Gionta Thursday morning on Daybreak saying this is “not real hockey”. But he went on to say it’s a “win-win” situation for everyone and he’s right. It gives us hockey-starved fans some ice action to watch, the players get to lace up and all the money goes to charity.
Tickets are available only at the venues and go on sale at 5 p.m. the day of the game. I think it’s a great initiative. On the weekend, my pal – and arch tennis rival – Daniel Sanger was talking up an idea he wrote about years ago, that the players should set up an alternate league if the lock-out drags out. Why not? Just make sure to invite Bettman to first game!