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Locked-out NHL rivals look to team up to stay sharp

Philadelphia Flyers center Maxime Talbot shoots the puck during a practice session in preparation for the 2012 NHL Winter Classic ice hockey game at the Ballpark in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania January 1, 2012.


Patience isn't something that comes easily to the uber-competitive. So a few locked-out NHLers are contemplating a way to get some games in while their labour dispute with the league awaits resolution.

Philadelphia Flyers winger Maxime Talbot and his good pal, Philly defenceman Bruno Gervais, came up a plan a few weeks ago, as they contemplated the possibility of a player lockout.

Think of it as a jumped-up version of the best from our town against the best from yours.

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The idea is to hold a series of charity games pitting a team of players from Montreal against a squad mostly made up of Quebec City natives – a soft revival of Canadiens-Nordiques.

The first encounter could take place as early as next week.

"It's not a league exactly. We just sat down this summer, and started talking about what we would do if the season is delayed and this is what we came up with: Some games involving NHL players who are around the region and maybe build it up slowly from there," said Talbot, who grew up in suburban Montreal. "We want it to be competitive enough that we can stay in shape and be ready for when the season begins."

Talbot said the games would be non-contact – much like the scrimmages most locked-out players have been holding since the season was put on hold – and any gate receipts would be donated to charity.

So far, about 40 players have been approached – including Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who played junior in Rimouski, goalie Marc-André Fleury (Penguins), Daniel Brière (Flyers), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Minnesota Wild), David Perron (St. Louis Blues), Derick Brassard (Columbus Blue Jackets) and the David Desharnais (Canadiens).

Gervais and Talbot have set Thursday as a deadline for players to answer. Several are waiting for news from European or Russian teams before deciding.

In theory, there should be considerable take-up, at least 40 NHLers are currently in the Montreal area doing on-ice and off-ice workouts, although they may need to recruit some imports to play defence – there aren't a lot of blueliners from Quebec City.

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"I hope they let me come and play," Habs defenceman Josh Gorges joked. "It's a great idea, it's a great way to keep us playing. Hopefully, we get to some spots where people can come out and watch."

Gervais said he and Talbot have tentatively booked an arena and a skate sharpener for Sept. 27 – he won't say which one just yet – and if that game comes off, they would be prepared to do a barnstorming tour of the province.

But none of this will happen, Gervais said, unless a sufficient number of players commits to playing the games in Quebec over the next month or two.

"We don't want to end up in Drummondville one night with only six guys on the ice – we'd probably have to start juggling or throw a lion out there just to give a decent show," the former New York Islanders/Tampa Bay Lightning rearguard said with a laugh.

With groups of players twiddling their thumbs in other markets, perhaps the concept of geographically-chosen teams of NHLers could be expanded. Gervais joked he might hit up former Tampa teammate Steven Stamkos to see if they could arrange something with the dozens of Toronto-based NHLers.

Several locked-out members of the Ottawa Senators would be keen as well.

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"I was talking to [Wild forward] Zach Parise at the player meeting last week in New York, and he was saying they could put together two teams easily," Gervais said. "I'm not saying we're all going to fly to Minnesota next week, but I could see how you could do a little tournament."

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More


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