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Demers says fed should stay out of NHL dispute

  • Senator Jacques Demers was in St-Lazare on Monday morning.
    Senator Jacques Demers was in St-Lazare on Monday morning.
    Photo credit: The Gazette

Jacques Demers said the NHL lockout, which is now nearly two months old, is sad, but unlike other labour disputes in the last few years, he doesn’t expect the Harper government to get involved.

“Labour conflicts in companies like Canada Post and Air Canada are one thing, they provide a service to the people,” the former coach and commentator-turned senator told The Gazette on Monday. “I think the government will stay out of this.”

The Hudson resident was in St-Lazare to announce an investment in that town’s water filtration plant, but couldn’t resist talking hockey.

He said it’s frustrating to see how ordinary hard-working people are being affected by the work stoppage.

“Forget the owners, who are billionaires, and the players, who are millionaires, this is so unfair for the people who aren’t working because of the lockout,” said Demers, who was the last coach to win a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1993. “I’m talking about 500 to 600 people in the Bell Centre, and restaurant workers. Some of these are part-time jobs, and some are full-time jobs.”

He said the government is powerless to resolve the dispute, and said he believes fans here will forgive and forget when the puck is finally dropped, no matter how long the lockout lasts.

“People are mad, but the first night the Montreal Canadiens play in the Bell Centre, or the Toronto Maple Leafs play, it will be sold out.”

He said he is more concerned about fans not returning in some of the struggling franchises in the U.S., like Nashville and Florida.

Demers added, he’d like to see at least two more teams come to Canada. He said Quebec City is an obvious choice, and there can be one or even two more teams added to the area around Toronto.

“We can easily have two more teams in Canada. The Nordiques will do very well. Quebec City is bigger now. It is ready for an NHL team,” said Demers, who was the first coach of the Nordiques in the 1970s. “Markham, Ont., and Hamilton are places where I think there would be enough support. There are three teams in a 45-kilometre radius in New York and New Jersey, I know the population is smaller around Toronto, but it is possible. Maybe Hamilton would hurt Buffalo more, I can see that, but Markham is building an arena that can support an NHL team.

jmagder@montrealgazette.com
Twitter: @OffIslandNews
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