Worldstars take it on tour

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

The Worldstars Tour of Europe could break some hearts in North America.

Enough deprived hockey fans on this side of the pond would've wanted first dibs on seeing many of their NHL heroes, who begin a seven-nation, 10-game series on Dec. 9 in Riga, Latvia. All games will be available on pay-per-view here, ranging from $9.99 each to a package of $59.99, with a planned split of profits between the players and charity.

J.P. Barry, manager of hockey for International Management Group, the tour organizers, said a North American tour would be a logical extension if the Worldstars elicited a good response in Europe.

"We put together a team in less than six or seven weeks and the question was: Who are you going to play against?," Barry said yesterday at the tour launch at Wayne Gretzky's. "First and foremost, we wanted the games to be compelling. Right now, the competition (in Europe) was the only option. We'll look at North America, but later in the spring after the NHL has decided what's going to happen with the season.

"A lot of people have (discussed North America) and there is interest in doing something like that. I've thought about two touring teams (for Europe and here), but logistically, that was very difficult to bring about."

The IMG Worldstars will be made up of 28 players, some of whom already are moonlighting in Europe and will hop on and off the tour.

TWO LEAFS

The biggest names include Mats Sundin and Tie Domi of the Maple Leafs, with Martin Brodeur and Dominik Hasek in goal, Rob Blake and Sergei Gonchar on defence, plus Sergei Fedorov, Daniel Alfredsson, Joe Thornton and Rick Nash up front. Marc Bergevin will coach the Worldstars, possibly assisted by Marty McSorley

The European sites will vary from a 9,000-seat barn in Bratislava , Slovakia, to a new 17,000-seat palace in Berne, Switzerland, with ticket prices based on local currencies. It's modeled on the successful Gretzky and Friends tour of Europe during the 1994-95 lockout.

"At first, I didn't think we'd be as big as Gretzky over there," Brodeur said. "But raising money (for the NHL Players Association Goals and Dreams Fund and the Garth Brooks Teammates For Kids Foundation) will be a bonus."

Barry said the cost of insurance was an expensive stickler, but all players are covered for anything major that would affect them in the second half of an NHL season, while personal insurance will take care of minor injuries.

"If there's profit (after charity), the players will split it," Barry said.

Hasek warned that the NHL stars would have to be on their toes in back-to-back games against the Russian all-stars and in Slovakia, where a lot of would-be NHLers would be in better game shape, playing on the big ice and just waiting to knock some big names down a peg or two. Hence the presence of a player such as Domi.

"I'm quite flattered to be included," said Domi, one of several non-IMG clients on the trip. "It's something I couldn't turn down. We're going to the Luzhnicki Arena in Moscow where I don't think any Canadian team has played since Paul Henderson scored."


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