Why the NHL Needs a Franchise in Quebec City by 2015

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Why the NHL Needs a Franchise in Quebec City by 2015
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Loyal Quebec fans would like a return of their franchise to Quebec City.

The National Hockey League does not compare with the NFL in the be-all and end-all category that is television ratings.

There is no disputing this. According to Harris Interactive, Hockey ranks fourth among the four major professional sports leagues in popularity and television ratings.

Nevertheless, the NHL is a very successful sports league. It is growing in popularity and in revenue. One of the keys to that popularity is playing the sport in venues and cities where it is loved and appreciated.

That's why the NHL went back to Winnipeg prior to the 2011-12 season and that's why the NHL needs to get back to Quebec City by 2015—when a new arena is scheduled to be completed.

Quebec City became a major league city when the World Hockey Association was formed prior to the 1972-73 season to compete with the National Hockey League. One of the franchises was supposed to be located in San Francisco, but before that season even started, the franchise was relocated to Quebec City.

This northern city in the province of Quebec became the home to the legendary Nordiques. Not only was this franchise successful on the ice, but fans flocked to their beloved Colisee de Quebec on a nightly basis to cheer on their local favorites.

Traditionally, fans living in Quebec City had rooted for the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens were the closest NHL franchise to Quebec City and the team was almost always filled with French-speaking players. However, when the WHA came into existence, Quebec City fans finally had their own franchise to embrace.

During the seven-season existence of the World Hockey Association, the Nordiques failed to make the playoffs in the first two years of the league's history. They made it the remaining five years and won the league's championship in 1976-77.

The Nordiques, along with the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Hartford Whalers were absorbed by the NHL prior to the start of the 1979-80 season. The Nords failed to make the playoffs their first season in the NHL, but they made it during the next seven seasons.

They built a high-scoring and exciting team and soon became rivals with the Hartford Whalers, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres in the Adams Division of the NHL. While the Canadiens were clearly the more established team in the province of Quebec, the feisty Nordiques regularly held their own with them.

While supported by French-speaking fans, the team embraced all its players, including their trio of Czech imports that included brothers Peter, Anton and Marian Statsny. That threesome formed one of the best and most dangerous lines in the NHL.

While the Colisee was quaint and colorful, it was deemed too small by the NHL and the league did not object when the owners pulled the team out of Quebec City and moved it to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche prior to the start of the 1995-96 season.

A new arena is scheduled to be built in Quebec City that is up to NHL standards and will seat 18,000 fans. Ground on the arena will be broken in September. Quebec City's leaders authorized its construction with the hope of the NHL returning to the city.

There are no guarantees, but it is thought that if Glendale cannot retain the Coyotes, that Quebec City would become one of the prime candidates for relocation.

A new Quebec City franchise would be virtually guaranteed sell-out crowds and passionate fans who have never forgotten the glory days of the Nordiques.

It would be a spectacular return for the NHL.

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