Habs moved by visit to Lac Megantic
Published Thursday, October 3, 2013 8:14PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 4, 2013 7:57AM EDT
LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. -- The Montreal Canadiens held a practice in the disaster-stricken town of Lac-Megantic, Que., in a show of support Thursday for the community.
The Habs rolled into town on a bus whose passengers included team owner Geoff Molson and general manager Marc Bergevin.
"Driving down the road, you take a deep breath. It's hard. It's hard to see it," Molson said.
"But at the same time the people are here today, and they're happy, and it looks like the city is being rebuilt so that gives me pleasure at the same time."
Cheers from the 1,300 people in the arena greeted them as they took the ice, with kids tapping on the glass to get the players' attention and request autographs.
It was the latest in a string of good-will gestures directed at the community, following benefit shows and free concert tickets from Paul McCartney.
The Habs themselves have already held a scrimmage at the Bell Centre where cash raised from the $5 tickets went to a Lac-Megantic fund. They also invited survivors and emergency personnel to pre-season games, and held a minute of silence during a pre-game tribute.
"I think we probably had 150 ideas of what we could do (for Lac-Megantic)," said Molson.
"We put together a little task force. I'm not going to give any individual credit. I think it's a team effort and I'm proud to be here."
Lac-Megantic mayor Colette Roy-Laroche said watching the Canadiens play on Saturday nights on television was a sacred ritual in her family when she was growing up.
"It's a pleasure and an honour to have the whole team and Mr. Molson here," she said. "I'm delighted and proud. I can't find the words to express how happy we are."
Goaltending coach Stephane Waite, who is from nearby Sherbrooke, Que., said the bus went quiet as it approached the town.
Defenceman P.K. Subban told reporters that the team felt it was important to go to Lac-Megantic, and appreciated seeing so many happy and excited children.
His teammate David Desharnais was moved by what he saw.
"You see it on TV, but when you see it with your own eyes and you realize how devastating it was," he said. "We're glad we came.
"I saw a lot of smiles in the stands. If we can bring a little joy to people and show them we're behind them, we'll be happy."
From the excitement in the stands, it was clear the visit was a success.
"We love hockey," said Lac Megantic resident Gaston Breault. "It's a chance for us to see the Canadiens in person.
"It was good of them to do this."
Forty-seven people were killed, and a part of the town was razed, when a train derailed on July 5, smashing into the town centre and erupting in fireballs.
The disaster has prompted various investigations and lawsuits, all of which are ongoing.
There have also been policy changes in Canada's rail-safety standards, with other changes possible after an investigation from the federal Transportation Safety Board.
Pacioretty, Prust, Parros stay home
Max Pacioretty missed the trip to receive treatment for an injury suffered to his left forearm in the opener against the Leafs.
He sat out a few shifts but stayed in the game, but was clearly in pain. The team spoke of a “single day of therapy” for the left winger, so he might suit up Saturday.
Brandon Prust also missed for family reasons.
George Parros was absent following his mishap against the Leafs, but there was some cause for encouragement, as he was well enough Wednesday to drop into the team’s practice facility in Brossard Wednesday.
P.K. Subban also noted that he had been texting with the giant enforcer who suffered a serious concussion after falling to the ice during a fight.
Either Michael Bournival or Ryan White is expected to suit up in his place Saturday, both might play if Pacioretty sits out.
“Of course I want to play,” said Bournival. “It sucks that it’s because George was injured but I can’t control these things. When they named me to the team I decided to stay ready and stay in shape, ready for my chance.”
David Desharnais expressed confidence that Pacioretty would be back soon. “This is a guy who recovers quickly. He already had an appendectomy and he only missed a few games, so we'll see. We don’t play much for the next week, so he could have some time to recover.”
Owner Geoff Molson was asked about the issue of fighting but had little to say.
“I don't discuss these issues in public but the safety of the players is very important to me. There has always been a debate (on the abolition of fights) and must continue to have one. “
Molson has been vocal in denouncing cheap shots and expressed encouragement that they were on the decline since Pacioretty was directed into a stanchion by Bruins’ giant Zdeno Chara.
“The incident made a difference, especially for head shots. The league is working hard on it,” said Molson.
Molson smiled when he noted that the addition of tough guys Parros and Douglas Murray could be “part of the equation” for the team.
-With files from The Canadian Press