SUN Hockey Pool

Magical mystery tour

Maple Leafs forward Tie Domi takes a break during a practice yesterday at the Ricoh Coliseum for...

Maple Leafs forward Tie Domi takes a break during a practice yesterday at the Ricoh Coliseum for the IMG WorldStars tour. (Toronto Sun/Veronica Henry)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

KEFLAVIK, Iceland -- If this is Wednesday this must be Keflavik. Who knew there was anywhere in Iceland other than Reykjavik?

It's Day 1 of the only extended road trip of a team comprised entirely of NHL players this non-season.

"It's an adventure into the unknown," said Martin Brodeur of the biggest hockey barnstorming tour of all time.

"Most of us have never been to most places we're going, know each other very well or know what to expect so much," said the goaltender who inspired the tour which left Toronto for Riga yesterday with a fuel stop in Goose Bay and another one here.

It's going to be crazy.

For one thing, the players discovered prior to takeoff in Toronto, their head coach has never coached before.

"I've never even been behind the bench before," said coach Marc Bergevin. "I guess I'm going to open the door. I'll have to rely on Marty McSorley quite a bit."

While that may sound like the inmate running the institution, Bergevin insists McSorley is actually qualified on two fronts for this tour of duty.

"He's (McSorley) coached before. And he was on the Gretzky & Friends Tour during the last lockout 10 years ago."

DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

McSorley, who coached with Springfield in the AHL for two years, said a tour like this starts as Holiday On Ice but then goes off in a dozen different directions.

"The Gretzky Tour was a tremendous amount of fun. But it was amazing how fast the competitive instincts kicked in. The combination of everywhere you go and everything else involved made it one of the great experiences of my life."

Rob Blake, who missed the World Cup of Hockey due to injury, is the only player who was on the Gretzky Tour in '94.

"That was an amazing experience. It made the decision to go on this easy," said Blake.

"It's a lot of fun and after the first shift or two it becomes a lot more than that. There are a lot of Canadians on this team so you feel like you're representing Canada and we're also representing the NHL," he said, risking some sort of decertification with the players association.

The Worldstars Tour is a lot of things, but first and foremost, it's an adventure for the locked-out likes of Brodeur, Blake, Dominik Hasek, Mats Sundin, Joe Thornton, Luc Robitaille, Sergei Fedorov, Daniel Alfredsson, Brendan Shanahan, Petr Nedved, Kris Draper, Glen Murray, Daniel Briere and many more.

"How many chances do you get to take the old man all over Europe," said Detroit Red Wings' Ray Whitney, the former Oiler stick boy from the Stanley Cup era.

Ray has brought dad Floyd, who at age 51 is still a practice goalie in Edmonton.

Dad has brought his goaltending equipment should things get carried away and these guys decide to have a practice or a morning skate somewhere.

The Worldstars tour started with the one-and-only scheduled practice for this team yesterday at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto.

Unlike the much easier-paced Gretzky Tour, this 10-game in 14-day run looks like it was scheduled by Gary Bettman as cruel and unusual punishment for not doing a deal.

There are 16 takeoffs and 16 landings for the players who started the tour in Toronto.

Thornton, Briere, Nedved and a few others, will meet the team in Riga, later this morning.

They have been playing in Europe and will join the team for most of the stops which include Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia, Pilsen in the Czech Republic, Bern Sweden, three cities in Sweden, Oslo in Norway and Katowice in Poland.

A THINK-TANK

Shanahan will be hosting a think- tank in Toronto this week in which Sundin will be involved.

They'll catch up to the team enroute.

When the tour hits Bern, Briere, who plays HC Bern in the Swiss league, will switch sweaters and play for the home team.

Briere and Thornton will cut out late and join Marc Habscheid's Team Canada for the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switerland.

After the two games against the Russian All-Stars, Brodeur, Draper, Shanahan and a few others will double back from St. Petersburg to Moscow to play in Igor Larionov's going-away game.

There's been one scheduling change since the tour was put together during Grey Cup week.

Bratislava, Slovakia was scrapped and replaced by Pilsen, where Pilsner beer was invented.

Slovakia is not lock-out player friendly. The contention in the country is that NHL players over there are spoiling the wide-open, go-go show by killing the games with defensive-orientated play.

The tour visits Oslo, Norway, the northernmost stop on the tour on Dec. 21 - the longest, darkest day of the year.

And then they finish off by flying all the way back to Poland to play the final game the next day, climbing on the plane for a three-stop flight to Toronto immediately after the game is over.

It's kind of the equivalent of a European team coming to Canada, opening in Saskatoon, playing games in Edmonton and Calgary and working its way to, say, Quebec City, only to double back to Winnipeg for one last game before heading back here ... and over the polar ice cap to finish the trip.

Maybe we'll hit Reykjavik on the way back.


Videos

Photos