CHATEAUGUAY, Quebec -- Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron was wearing his familiar No. 37 and playing hockey Thursday night. But unfortunately for him and Bruins fans he wasn't in his Black & Gold jersey playing in a preseason game. Instead, on the same day that the NHL canceled the remainder of the 2012-13 preseason, he was wearing the blue and white for Team Quebec as Bergeron and some fellow NHLers played the first game of La Tournée des joueurs, a traveling exhibition league organized by Flyers players and Quebec natives Maxime Talbot and Bruno Gervais.
Numerous Quebec-born NHL players as well as some Montreal Canadiens that reside in the area were split into two teams -- Team Quebec and Team Montreal -- and played before a packed house at the Complex Multisports de Chateauguay. All the money from the exhibitions will go to charity.
Bergeron -- who is from Quebec City -- was happy to give back to the fans in his native province while trying to stay in game shape if the NHL lockout ends.
“We have a lot of great players here in the area and there’s some players that play for Montreal -- like [Roman] Hamrlik -- or ones that stick around Montreal that are not from here and it’s great to have them with us,” said Bergeron who had two helpers in a 7-4 loss for Team Quebec. “They’re great players and it was a lot of fun. Maxime and Bruno came up with this idea over the summer and we realized that it wasn’t going anywhere with the CBA and I was all for it.”
“It’s great. The outcome is awesome,” said Bergeron. “For us, it’s to get in shape and make sure we’re ready once the season starts. It’s not easy but we gotta stay strong and I thought the game was a pretty good game. It was pretty intense and outside of no contact I thought guys were battling hard.”
The NHL and NHLPA are set to resume talks on non-economic issues Friday and while Bergeron is happy to see the two sides talking for the first time since September 14, he didn’t seem optimistic there would be NHL hockey anytime soon.
“I don’t know,” Bergeron said when asked if he thinks this could be another long lockout. “They’re going to be talking [Friday] and I guess that’s a positive but we’ll see. You look at 2004 and they didn’t talk for three months after they were locked out. I think it’s a positive sign but I think we’re a long ways and we have to make sure we stay positive as a union.”
After a disappointing first round exit in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bergeron has been eager to get back to work and help his team make another Cup run. But he stands by the NHLPA and believes the owners need to reevaluate the players’ last proposal.
“You want to get back at it right away, but with that being said we have some issues with the CBA,” Bergeron said. “We thought that we could keep negotiating on the old CBA while training camp got started but the owners are not ready to do that. For us, what we came up with I think are some great ideas. So hopefully they’re going to look at it with more intensity.”
There were reports this week that Bergeron was close to joining linemate Tyler Seguin with HC Genève-Servette in the Swiss League, but Bergeron said nothing is close yet.
“No we haven’t,” Bergeron replied when asked if he had signed a deal yet. “We spoke early and a little before the lockout and nothing came out of it. We have to get the right fit I guess and make sure everything is set up before I go over there.”
But whether he plays more games in La Tournée des joueurs or heads to Switzerland, Bergeron’s primary desire is to be playing for the Boston Bruins again soon. He was thrilled to see Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli continue to keep the team’s core intact with the recent signings of Milan Lucic and his regular linemates Seguin and Brad Marchand.
“It’s great to see that and I think Peter is doing a tremendous job keeping the whole team together,” Bergeron said. “He’s been doing that since he’s been there and it’s very special what we have in Boston.”
Bergeron also joked that he expects a special dinner from Marchand and Seguin now that they’re being paid so much.
“They better take me out now for a nice dinner or something,” Bergeron joked. “But they deserve it and I am happy for them. I can’t wait to be back playing with them again.”