Friday, November 13, 2009

Return To Quebec?

1) Many may have read recently that apparently there is an interest in bringing back hockey to Quebec City. As most of you know Quebec had an NHL franchise from 1979, when it was part of the WHA absorption/merger (along with Edmonton, Hartford, now-Carolina and Winnipeg), to 1995 when the team was sold/moved to Colorado. During their 16 or so seasons in La Belle Province the Nords had excellent fan support even through some lean years. The franchise did win a Cup, unfortunately for the faithful there not until the team left Quebec. Fan support wasn't the real reason for the NHL allowing the team to leave, but the aging arena La Colisée. At the time the local government refused to either refurbish or consider buildng a replacement for the out of date fascility. In recent years corporate sponsor and luxury boxes is as important for financial stability as a solid season ticket base. Thus the need for a modern arena. Back in the early-mid 90's the Quebec owner Marcel Aubut pushed the City to build one but was rejected, forcing his hand and eventual exodus to Denver.

2) Since then there have been many Faux-stories of an impending return of NHL hockey to Quebec (and to Winnipeg for that matter) There are several factors though involved in this story that lead us to believe that there is in fact a possibility that this story 'has legs'/isn't faux. The most important is the fact that Quebec City has announced plans for a new arena in order to "facilitate an NHL return to the city and one day hosting a Winter Olympics." Mayor Regis Labeaume said recently. That he's hired engineering firm SNC Lavalin to conduct a feasibility study. He hopes to see the arena built from 2010 to 2012. Labeaume expects the arena to cost $400 million, with the city contributing $50 million to the project. He wants the federal and provincial governments to each pony up $175 million under infrastructure programs. The mayor said Quebec City is at a "crossroads" and a new, multi-purpose 18,000 facility is a must. "We can't be an Olympic candidate city without it; we can't hope to realize a dream of the NHL returning without it."Labeaume, along with former Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut, met in New York with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly last month

3) When one puts those two facts together (a new arena being planned AND a meeting with the Commish we have to believe that there is some validity to this. Now we should caution that this is FAR from a done deal. Until a shovel is actually in the ground we would caution folks up north from too much optimism, yet. There are valid reasons why many are saying that a team just can't make it there. The one most reason is the size of the market. Right now the smallest NHL market is in Edmonton, where the metro area possess just over a million folks. While Quebec has a mere 800K folks i its metro vicinity. Many state that a team needs to have a minimum of a million folks to be viable in Canada and probably 2 million in the states. However we believe with the inevitable (in our opinion) expansion into Las Vegas in the next 3-5 years, the NHL will have to throw Canada a bone and the NHL/Bettman like a known quantity. With his past NHL ownership Marcel Aubut is liked and respected among the board of governors and unlike an outsider would be much more acceptable as a new member. Therefore we are convinced that Quebec City has the biggest chance of any other Canadian city to get a new NHL franchise.

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