Lac-Mégantic, Que., has started to fade from national headlines since the train derailment on July 6 that caused 47 deaths and gutted the community's downtown. It's absolutely incomprehensible to process what it must be like for a town of 6,000 people that prided itself on being a popular tourist town to have such devastation now be part of its daily reality.
It won't heal everything, but last weekend the Sherbrooke Phoenix and Victoriaville Tigres played a QMJHL preseason game at Lac-Mégantic's two-year-old arena. At the end of the game, the players gave a special salute to the crowd of 1,149 in the hard-hit town.
Meantime, Phoenix president Denis Bourque, who's also a Tim Hortons franchisee in the Eastern Townships, managed to quickly throw together a $104,000 donation for the Quebec wing of the Canadian Red Cross, which has been part of the recovery effort. It's all part of trying to feel normal.
From John Edwards:
The game itself, a pedestrian affair won 3-1 by Victoriaville, mattered less than the fact that it was taking place at all, the first major sporting event in Lac-Mégantic since the train derailment seven weeks ago that decimated the town centre and killed 47.
“Hockey here is in our blood,” said [Louis] Longchamps [the game's organizer]. “Every Friday night there is a senior hockey game or a junior hockey game here. So when you look at this, it’s a way of going back to normal.”
“The people of Megantic are strong. They’re amazing,” said Denis Bourque, the Phoenix [team] president. “They need to know that we’re there [for them], that the people of Quebec are close to them.”
Indeed, the game’s highlight came prior to the opening faceoff, as Bourque, who is the franchisee for Tim Hortons locations in Sherbrooke and Lac-Mégantic, surprised the crowd by announcing a donation of $104,355.63 for the Canadian Red Cross (Quebec Section) by the restaurant chain.
... Bourque was quick to pay tribute to his staff at the Tim Hortons in Lac-Mégantic. “The girls who work for me here, they still work with smiles. Even the week when the tragedy happened, they still worked with courage,” he stated. (Sherbrooke Record)
True, perhaps this is all symbolic, but it's important symbolism. The arena complex in Lac-Mégantic is only two years old, so presumably its planning and completion inspired a great sense of accomplishment. Small towns need those facilities as a magnet to convince people the town is a good place to live; with help from the two QMJHL teams, Lac-Mégantic showed it is bouncing back in spirit.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.