A sell-out crowd of 21,273 filled the Bell Centre Saturday for a scrimmmage that helped raised money for rebuilding efforts in Lac-Mégantic.
Fans were delighted to find a welcoming committee of Canadiens’ players when they walked into the Bell Centre. People snapped pictures, shook hands and high-fived the players as they moved along the receiving line.
“The important thing is we get to say hello to our fans and thank them for being here and supporting the initiative,” said Geoff Molson, the Canadiens’ principal owner who was at the main entrance.
Canadiens defenseman Francis Bouillon received a warm ovation in the third period when he thanked fans for attending the event.
“I think Lac-Mégantic is something that touched us all this summer. And it’s nice to see people support a cause like this,” Bouillon said after the scrimmage.
The White team won 2-1, led by a pretty back-hand goal by Martin Reway and a long shot by Stefan Fournier that slipped through Peter Budaj’s pads. Tomas Plekanec scored for the Red team.
Proceeds from the scrimmage will go to the Fonds Avenir Lac-Mégantic. Tickets cost $5 each and fans received a free hot dog, bag of chips and soft drink.
Dustin Tokarski replaced Carey Price in net in the second period and Zachary Fucale, picked 36th overall by the Canadiens’ in last June’s entry draft, took over for Budaj.
It was a banner day for Fucale. He made his Bell Centre debut and the team announced they’ve signed him to a three-year, entry level deal.
Max Pacioretty knocked into Fucale twice, the first time receiving a goaltender interference penalty. Fucale took it in stride and Pacioretty’s aggressive play won praise from coach Michel Therrien.
“I thought Patch did a really good job going hard to the net,” coach Michel Therrien said after the scrimmage.
“He’s so powerful with his speed,” Therrien said.
“We want to make sure he’s concentrating on those things because he’s one of the best skaters in the NHL,” Therrien said. “And he’s tough to contain when he’s using that speed and going hard to the net.”
Forward Sebastian Collberg, who has been out with a knee injury, took part in the scrimmage. Collberg was a bit nervous at the start but said he felt pretty good with Charles Hudon and Martin Reway in the scrimmage.
“I didn’t expect that today,” Collberg said of the huge crowd.
“It was awesome to be out there.”
The Canadiens’ made their first cuts at training camp on Saturday. They announced that Tim Bozon, Connor Crisp and Jérémy Grégoire will return to their respective junior teams.
You can hear more of what Fucale had to say about his Bell Centre debut and new contract here:
(Video by Brenda Branswell)
And you can watch a video by Gazette photographer Peter McCabe of Canadiens’ players greeting fans at the Bell Centre with Danny Brière talking about the experience here: