Worldstars fail to shine

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

OSLO, Norway -- Maybe if they'd dressed Beckie Scott.

Canada's cross-country ski Olympic golden girl or even Eddie the Eagle, the myopic Brit ski jumper, might have caused more of a stir than the Worldstars touring team in their hockey missionary visit here last night.

As it was, adding Dan Boyle and Marcus Nilson didn't do it.

Norwegians, who camped out to get tickets to watch Wayne Gretzky here 10 years ago on his lockout tour, didn't succeed in an attempt to add a little sizzle to Norwegian hockey, which hasn't had any since George Kingston tried to get something going with the program before the Lillehammer Olympics.

"Norwegians knew about Wayne Gretzky," said Canadian ex-pat Rob Doroshuk of the local committee, of the failure to draw a crowd for the second-last stop of the 10-game in 14-day tour of seven nations, which concludes tonight in Katowice, Poland.

HALF THE CAPACITY

Only about 2,500 fans, less than half the capacity of the Oslo Spektrum showed up for the game against the Norwegian All-Stars, a team which featured a cartoon of a goofy-looking troll wearing a horned helmet on the front of their sweaters.

A sweater, remarkably free of advertising, was the gift for Anson Cater for being named player of the game for his two-goal, two-assist night.

It was also the first time on the tour that the Worldstars played on an ice surface totally free of advertising, the record being 40 ads on the ice in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

"It was difficult to judge how they promoted the game," said Martin Brodeur, the goaltender who inspired the tour which looks like it's going to lose about $100,000.

"The people who came really cared and seemed to enjoy it," he said of the first game held in the building since the Gretzky & Friends Tour in '94.

JP Barry, of tour organizers IMG, said the Norwegian committee was terrific.

"They did this game for all the right reasons and really did everything first-class for our team."

He said originally the idea was to put it in the old building where all the hockey here is played, the building where the Edmonton Mercurys won the gold medal for Canada at the 1952 Olympics.

"That would have been perfect. But they had high hopes. The issue was probably the pricing," he said of the $80-$100 ticket prices in a place where the only hockey player with any profile is Espen Knutson, the NHLer who is playing with Djurgarden in the Swedish league and was unable to play this game due to a concussion.

The papers back in Sweden were making a story of the Worldstars' partying Saturday night in Stockholm at the end of a six-game in seven-night run - which resulted in their embarrassing game in Linkoping the following evening.

But there was no such storyline in this one.

HEADING FOR HUMILIATION

For a while there, however, it looked like they were going to go from embarrassment to humiliation.

The touring Worldstars had their legs and their pride this night, at least enough of both to dominate a third period to beat the Norwegians 7-6.

"It was Worldstars game rules," said Alexandre Daigle, who also scored two with John-Michael Liles, Robyn Regehr and Calgary Flames teammate Nilson adding the other.

"At least we're going to finish the tour over .500," said Daigle of heading to the final stop on the tour with a 6-3 record.

"We're here to enjoy the experience more than anything, but you still have to have some pride," said Carter of leading the way this day.

"Right now we fell like a rock band which has been on tour for nine months.

"But when push comes to shove you've got to do what we did tonight."

As for the crowd, Carter laughed.

"It felt like an NHL game I played in Carolina when they had the black curtains up."


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