Quebecor, Quebec City Face Race Against Time to Get Nordiques Back to Canada

Joe M.Correspondent IISeptember 10, 2010

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

News broke earlier this week that the Quebec province has agreed to pay for 45% of the total cost of a new $400 million arena which would hopefully, and eventually mark the return of the NHL to the province from once it left.

45% of $400M is $180 million. Quebec City leaders had already pledged $50 million toward the project, or 12.5%. 45% + 12.5%=57.5% supposedly covered, not bad when you consider the entire campaign to re-acquire a team offically was announced on October 9, 2009.

Not bad for an entire year, a bunch of hurdles, a few national elections, and a budget deficit later.

Winnipeg? Hamilton? Just what have you done? Hartford? I don't hear the same success despite the known fact I'd like to see all of you get viable NHL teams back.

When the NHL looked to be going back to Winnipeg, Quebec City waited in the weeds. As I google "Winnipeg Jets," "Phoenix Coyotes, moving," and "Quebec Nordiques," everyday hoping for updates, nine of ten times it usually gives very little, save for maybe an update of someone's opinion.

Why the sudden change now? Because the yearlong feasibility study accessing the long-term viability of the team in the province has just been completed, and while not yet offically made public, all indications are (as were expected) that it came back favorable.


"English Canada" Up in Arms over Politics, Having to Pay Taxes on Public Arena

Read any message board, forum, or better yet, chat with Canadians as I have in this process, and they simply do not understand why they have to pay their share (45%) to cover the remaining cost of the arena. Of this, 12.5% is already included as explained above. Still, they will point out that arenas in the past throughout the country have been paid for with private funding.

There is also a fear that should Ottawa give in to Quebec's demands, and early indications are (and I can't believe I'm typing this as a Nordiques supporter, that they will) other cities like Saskatchewan, Edmonton, and Calgary to name a few, will want government support in building new venues for their hockey and football teams.

What they fail to realize is that this is common place in the United States. Granted, we don't petition Washington D.C. to help finance the sports venues of local clubs in individual states, we get that taken care of in each state legislature who then taxes the residents of the state a certain percentage, and the stadium gets built.

For example, one of my favorite teams, the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball, recently opened the newest ballpark in the sport this year and was the only team in the league to do so giving them the exclusive season-long bragging rights as the only such venue. The total cost of the ballpark came to be $512 million and of this, $393 million was raised through local taxes with the majority of the money being raised by one or two counties alone.


In a state with only 5.3 million people roughly, as with all publicly funded sports venues, one is sure to have opposition, and did they ever. 12 years of gridlock. In fact, I'd guess that most public venues generally face about 40-50% opposition from local voters who don't like being taxed for something they personally don't want, then when it gets built anyway in spite of this known fact, they seem all the more disinterested.

Canada with roughly 28 million people has 21 million non-Quebecers. Thus, 21 million people would be paying for 45% of an arena that they A) don't want because they personally won't benefit from it and B) dislike the idea of building an arena in a region largely known for its unique separatist/Nationalist attitudes that don't go over well with the rest of the country.

To help ease this ongoing concern, Quebec leaders like Labeaume, Quebec Premier Charest, and others have smartly tried to attach such an arena to a possible 2022 Olympic Games bid, something the entire country could rally around.

Think of it this way, Quebec has a little over 7 million people, a bit more than the state of Minnesota, and are required to pay for about half of what residents of Minnesota did. On the same token, the entire rest of the country is four times as populace as the state, and they have to pay this same percentage ($180M) or less than half of what Minnesota's taxpayers paid.

Canada, it's high time you "get with it" and "get over it;" this arena is going to happen whether you like it or not. If you love the NHL like you claim you do, then do your part so one of your fellow provinces can once again enjoy the favorite sport of so many of Canada's native sons.

As for the public funding question, as far as I know, with the exception of Dallas Coyboys' billionaire owner Jerry Jones, no one owner or conglomeration has ever built an arena to my knowlege funded entirely by themselves. The media here mockingly refers to the $1.1 billion palace in suburban Dallas as "Jerry's World" and leaves it at that. Many attribute this rare display of liberal self-funding as "typical Texan" arrogance where everything and everyone is bigger there.

The reason most owners and Quebecor will be no exception in asking for help in funding is that it's virtually impossible to go at it alone.


Seen as a Poltical Move to Many

These same English-speaking non-Quebecors do not like Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying all the right things about the possible return of the team in what they see as a trade-off for votes in the French province. Additionally, they don't like seeing pictures like this.

I say build the arena so we can not only see the return of one of Canada's best and long-lost rivalries (the Nords and their provincial cousins, the Canadiens), but the loss of an American club (likely the Phoenix Coyotes) would be Canada's gain.

So why a race against time? The NHL isn't going to babysit the struggling Southern club forever as they have to move on to their next failure, likely the Atlanta Thrashers, and there have been reports that the Coyotes face a December 31st deadline if no new local owner and lease agreement is worked out.

Quebec City's proactive approach couldn't come at a better time. Even if they miss out on the Coyotes this time, they'd just end up going home to Winnipeg from whence they came, and where many believe as a rare form of poetic justice should return. But Quebec would open themselves up as the number one desitination for one of the NHL's many financially unstable franchises, largely located in the South, and having a ready-made venue of NHL standards would be impossible to turn down, despite whatever spin you might be hearing now. If they build it, the NHL will come.


October 2 Plains of Abraham Rally for the Team

Just as the title says, there is scheduled to be a rally at this site for the anticipated return of the fabled NHL club to Quebec. Consider this free advertising on my part. Let's hope they get it done.

Information from The Montreal Gazette, Toronto Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, Wikipedia, and CTV Montreal directly contributed to the content of this article.