Expos are gone, Youppi! moves to the Habs

The Habs have "adopted" the bright orange mascot from the defunct Montreal Expos.

When the Montreal Canadiens open their pre-season Sunday night, on hand will be the team's new mascot, Youppi!. The Habs have "adopted" the bright orange creature from the defunct Montreal Expos.

Youppi!, whose name comes with an exclamation mark, had been without a job since the Expos were moved to Washington a year ago. Now he'll entertain hockey fans at the Bell Centre.

Roger Landry is responsible for creating the mascot. "Youppi! was a spirit, Youppi! was a Montrealer, Youppi! was a Quebecer," Landry said Saturday. "Nobody could be better parents to Youppi! than all of you and all the Montreal Canadiens team."

The move also has the blessing of Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau.

"I've been to so many events in my life, especially involving young children. Can you imagine if you visit the Montreal General [Hospital] or the Ste. Justine, not only with today's players, but you come in with Youppi! on top of that?"

Hundreds of Montreal hockey fans lined up at the Bell Centre Saturday morning to purchase tickets for this season's Canadiens home games. Some fans lined up for six hours in the rain.

The hottest demand is for games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, with superstar Mario Lemiuex playing alongside junior sensation Sidney Crosby.