Real-life ice gods!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

OSLO, Norway -- The night before they were bums. Now they're back to being hockey missionaries.

From an embarrassing effort the night before, the Worldstars were back to being good guys again here yesterday.

Martin Brodeur, no matter what has been playing in front of him, has been good every night on the torture-test barnstorming tour he inspired.

And Canada's national netminder says it's games like the first one tonight against the Norwegian All-Stars and the last one tomorrow in Katowice, Poland, that this tour is really all about.

"These people don't have a chance to see us at all," he said of NHL stars. "To the players on the teams we're playing, it's special to be on the same ice.

"It's not like in Sweden or Switzerland where the players are doing a duty for the owner who decided to hold the game and make them play us during their Christmas break."

What a difference a day makes.

In Sweden the night before, the president of the Linkoping team quite correctly called the exhibition embarrassing.

The next day the Worldstars showed up here only to get the royal treatment again. There was even some talk about getting to meet the king of Norway.

Brodeur was hoping the game was going to be played in the old rink where the Edmonton Mercurys won the 1952 Olympics.

"That would have been cool," he said of being able to say he played on the same ice as the team which was Canada's only Olympic gold medal-winning team until he backstopped Canada to gold in Salt Lake 50 years later.

NOT SINCE GRETZKY

It almost worked out that way.

The Worldstars will be playing in the "big" rink, which seats 6,500 and hasn't housed a hockey game since the Wayne Gretzky & Friends Tour came through here during the last lockout.

Local organizing committee member Rob Doroshuk, a Canadian ex-patriate from Dauphin, Manitoba, who has two brothers living in Edmonton, says it's been a challenge.

"We haven't had ice in the building, except for Disney-type ice shows, in 10 years. We had to find where the boards for hockey were located.

"We finally found them in some stable. It was a real search to find them."

Doroshuk and his committee are happy to have the team here with Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, Sergei Federov and the promise of Mats Sundin flying in from Stockholm this morning.

To move the remaining $80-$100 tickets, they need stars to be on the property.

Other than the above-mentioned names, the way the Worldstars are losing names like Rob Blake, Kris Draper, Brendan Shanahan and Sundin after this one, they'll be headed to Poland for their final game in their 10-game, 14-day tour of seven nations looking more like the World Journeymen.

A LITTLE SKINNY ON TALENT

"We're running a little skinny on talent right now," said Brodeur.

"It's so close to Christmas a lot of our guys wanted to cut it short to get home. But we still have a solid group of guys from start to finish."

As the run comes close to being done, Brodeur says he's not sorry he talked IMG into putting the tour together.

"It's a little rougher than I expected it to be. I didn't think there would be this many games in such a short span.

"It has been hard to enjoy it as much as we wanted.

"Still, it's been a lot of fun playing hockey again and entertaining ourselves.

"I think that's one thing a lot of people probably don't think about.

"All our lives are spent living with 20 other guys. When that is taken away from you, you miss it as much as the game.

"This trip has given guys who made it a special bond. It's just so much fun being back with the guys.

"Part of the idea was to have a lot of fun together and we've done that.

"We're not winning anything by being over here. We're not making a cent.

"We want to do well. We know the games are on TV. There's an element of pride. A couple of games we've come up short on that.

"But on the whole, it's been something special.

"I think we're all ready to go home now, but I'm glad we took the trip."

Brodeur is the one guy who gave the fans his best every night despite everything.

"I'm surprised a little bit," he said of how well he's played.

"I've just felt great being in there playing goal again."


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