La Tournée des Joueurs is playing to sold-out arenas across Quebec but players are anxious for the real thing.
The barnstorming tour organized by longtime friends Max Talbot and Bruno Gervais attracted more than 5,000 fans to the renocated Palais des Sports Léopold Drolet in Sherbrooke Friday night. The fans, many of them youngsters, were treated to two hours of past-paced shinny from a collection of locked-out players. The only people in the arena who might not have enjoyed the evening were goaltenders Jonathan Bernier and Marc-André Fleury, who were under constant attack.
Most of the players expressed disappointment at the NHL’s decision to cancel the first two weeks of the season but the Canadiens’ Brandon Prust said they were encouraged by the fact that the NHL and the NHLPA resumed talking Friday and are expected to keep in touch on the weekend.
Team Quebec, with Bernier in nets, posted its first win in the exhibition series, defeated Team Montreal 8-6. Prust and Montreal teammates David Desharnais and Lars Eller each scored a goal for the winners. Also scoring for Team Quebec were Mathieu Perreault, Paul Bissonnette, Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Simon Gagné and Sherbrooke native David Perron.
Josh Gorges had a goal and an assist for Team Montreal. Josh Bailey, Guillaume Latendresse, Kris Letang, Steve Bernier and Tabot also scored for Team Montreal
After sellouts in St. Hyacinthe Thursday and Sherbrooke Friday, the tour goes further afield next week. Therer will be a game in Rimouski on Wednesday and then it moves Thursday to Quebec where Talbot and company hope to fill the 15,000-seat Le Colisée Pepsi.