There was far less star power at the Canadiens’ annual golf tournament on Wednesday and the sujet du jour was the underlying reason for that — the ongoing labour dispute between the NHL and its players.
The charitable fundraiser typically kicks off the team’s season. But the only players in attendance at the Royal Montreal Golf Club were retired ones, including Guy Lafleur, Henri Richard, Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer along with former coach Jacques Demers.
The NHL locked out its players when their collective agreement expired last weekend.
“I continue to hope for the best and hope that we can reach an agreement,” Geoff Molson, the Canadiens’ principal owner, told reporters Wednesday morning.
“Every day counts but at the same time, it is early,” Molson said.
The overwhelming message Molson said he’s heard from fans is, ‘Let’s play hockey, let’s get out there.’
“And let’s hope that we can bring hockey back to the fans as soon as possible,” he said.
The intent of the NHL, the owners, and league commissioner Gary Bettman is to be optimistic and “try hard to come to an agreement,” Molson said.
The tournament benefits the Montreal Canadiens’ Children’s Foundation.
“It certainly is a better event when the players are here,” Molson said. “But unfortunately they couldn’t be here today.”
Michel Therrien, who is poised to start his second stint as the Canadiens’ head coach, said the coaching staff is ready with its plans.
“I feel like a lion in a cage … We’re ready to go,” he said.
“I’m disappointed with the situation that we’re facing right now. But in the meantime, I have to focus on what’s coming up for us,” said Therrien, who plans to be in Sherbrooke where the Hamilton Bulldogs open their training camp next week.
Habs legend Guy Lafleur said, at Wednesday’s golf tournament, that he hopes the dispute is resolved before Christmas.
It’s tough to sympathize with the players because they were receiving 57 per cent of hockey-related revenue, Lafleur said.
“It should be 50-50,” he said. “They should split the pie in half … I think it’s fair on both sides.”
(Photo by Pierre Obendrauf/The Gazette)