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Saturday, November 29, 2003
Quebec native drops puck before game

Associated Press

MONTREAL -- Eric Gagne's latest appearance was a cinch to close -- and a dream come true.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' closer, the NL Cy Young Award winner, dropped the puck during a ceremonial faceoff before the Montreal Canadiens' game against Florida.

Gagne was greeted by a standing ovation that lasted over a minute as he stepped onto the ice to the sound of "Welcome to the Jungle", the Guns 'N Roses' song that signals his every appearance at Dodger Stadium.

"I had goose bumps. It put me in my atmosphere," Gagne said of the song selection for his introduction. "The ovation was amazing. I didn't know what to do after a minute. It seemed like an hour. It was really special."

The Mascouche, Quebec, native -- a competitive hockey player until he was 18 years old -- wore a Canadiens jersey with his name and familiar No. 38.

"I was born and raised in Quebec, so everybody who wants to play hockey wants to play for the Canadiens," Gagne said. "It's pretty special to have your name on the back of the Canadiens' jersey."

Gagne had 55 save opportunities this season and has converted a major league-record 62 consecutive chances.

"It's been crazy. It's been fun," Gagne said. "It's just amazing. There are a lot of baseball fans and I think they're really proud in Quebec and Canada. Everybody's a big family here and they're really proud of their own. It's just really special to see that people recognize me. It's nice. I love it, and I'm enjoying it right now."

Gagne, who plans to begin training in Los Angeles in January, beamed when asked about his reaction to division rival Arizona trading Curt Schilling to Boston.

"That's good for us," Gagne said. "He's so tough to beat. I'm very happy he's gone to the American League."