The Montreal Canadiens held practice on Thursday in the disaster-stricken town of Lac-Megantic to show support for the community in which dozens were killed in a train derailment in July.
The team rolled into town on a bus that also carried Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and general manager Marc Bergevin.
Forty-seven people were killed, and a part of the town was razed, when a train derailed on July 5, smashed into the town center and erupted in fireballs.
”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 the Canadiens as they took the ice, with local kids tapping on the glass to get the attention of players and request autographs.
It was the latest in a string of goodwill gestures directed at the community, following benefit shows and free concert tickets from Paul McCartney.
The Canadiens have already held a scrimmage at the Bell Centre in which money raised from the $5 tickets went to a Lac-Megantic fund. They also invited survivors and emergency personnel to preseason games, and held a moment of silence during a pregame tribute.
”I think we probably had 150 ideas of what we could do (for Lac-Megantic),” Molson said. ”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.”
Canadiens defenseman 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 there.