VAL-D’OR, Quebec – Hockey really is religion in Val-d’Or.

The Air Creebec Centre, home of the Foreurs, looks like a rink around which a building was erected, instead of the other way around.

As fans walk in the front entrance, they are at ice level, and have to walk upstairs to get to the one bowl of seating. Once on the second level, fans find their section and walk downward into the lower bowl of the arena, which is only six rows deep, seating fewer than 2,500 people.

The seats are mini-benches – like church pews. People must sit two per bench, and there is an iron railing between every second seat.

But what gives the rink its notoriety are the fans. Despite fewer than 2,500 seats, the building will hold close to 3,500, counting standing room. By Monday, the rink had sold enough standing room tickets to accommodate people standing three deep around the entire lower bowl.

An additional 500 people bought tickets for the game, and were able to watch via closed-circuit television in an adjacent rink.

Ready to go . . . almost

Jonathan Bernier is a good goalie, but no one believes he can do all that he does without equipment.

Well, maybe Bernier does.

As the Maineiacs left their bus Monday in Sherbrooke and boarded their charter flight to Val-d’Or, the players were responsible for carrying their own gear.

With all of the players, coaches and other personnel on board, the team watched as the bus pulled away.

On the ground was a blue Maineiacs’ bag.

“Whose is that?” asked assistant coach Jeff Guay, turning to the rest of the plane.

He didn’t have to look far. Behind him, Bernier hid his face and grinned.

“I don’t know how that got left there,” Bernier said.

The plane was still 10 minutes from leaving. With a bit of prodding, the airline crew lugged the gear up the steps and into the cabin. They shuttled it to the rear, where they shoved it through a hatch from the cabin to the luggage area.

Lineup changes

Contrary to preliminary reports, Sebastien Piche was not ready to play Tuesday night. As a result, Marc-Andre Crete remained in the Maineiacs’ lineup.

A few things did change, though.

Danick Paquette sat in favor of David Taylor, while Patrick Cusack returned to the lineup in place of Tom Michalik. According to coach Clem Jodoin, Paquette and Taylor will continue to rotate games the rest of the way.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.