As reported last week by various Canadian Media outlets including TSN.CA and the Toronto Sun, depending on which side you believe, the Edmonton Oilers either met with Quebec City officials to share ideas on building a new arena in each city, or, as some have speculated, use the existing Oilers as leverage to try and get a new arena built in Alberta.
As you can imagine, not only has this generated quite a bit of debate around hockey circles, but its also raised a lot of new questions about the franchise, the owner and Quebec City’s real or imagined involvement in such a move.
Not the Right Way for Quebec to Get a team
The past 14 months, myself and very few other B/R writers have constantly tried to provide you updates on the progress of bringing historic teams back to the NHL in traditional markets like Hartford, Winnipeg, Quebec, and in some instances, Hamilton, Ontario. At various points, all cities could make a claim that theirs was in the lead to land a team like the Phoenix Coyotes or Atlanta Thrashers, for example.
We all know that the NHL has an image issue with many of the failed Southern markets like these and if Gary Bettman really wanted to, he could simply solve two of his biggest, most glaring problems, Phoenix and Atlanta, by moving them in time for the 2011-12 season as one could relocate to Winnipeg while the other plays in Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum.
For the first time since I started writing these update articles and following the possible relocation of the NHL, I am temped to declare that after Phoenix, the next most viable threat to move is now either Columbus or New York (take your pick) based on dwindling fan bases and meager crowds in each case, but also an outdated building, (the oldest in the NHL) home to the NHL’s worst team. With no resolution on the horizon, I fear that the once-proud Islanders may be next in line to move once Phoenix is resolved and relocated North.
Right from the beginning, I’ve been an advocate of getting the NHL back to Quebec and Manitoba but in Quebec’s case, not at the expense of a sister-club like Edmonton who I want to see get a new arena in their own province. I want to see more Canadian teams, not less and this move would be counterproductive to Canada, the NHL and Quebec City.
It would hurt Canada because it would cause yet another divide between “English Canada” and French/Nationalist Quebec which many Canadians outside the province are already leery of because of their differing and separatist views. Adding teams in Quebec and Winnipeg is Canada’s chance to unite around their love of hockey and losing one team to another province would only increase these tensions and mistrust. Additionally, it would anger English Canada who would see their attempts at gaining a club from them through threats and Federal taxpayer money as a new loophole for markets like Calgary that need a new arena as a means to do so.
It would hurt the NHL because instead of righting a wrong by returning to these abandoned NHL markets, essentially apologizing for having left, the people of Edmonton, once the most successful dynasty in the entire league, would be left with no team and due to their market size and lack of capital, likely would never get another team again, which would be a shame. They would simply replace Quebec as the new Quebec in terms of nostalgic cities that lost a team.
Finally, it would hurt Quebec, who would be seen as the enemy due to the process of how they were able to acquire a team and whom that team was. Not only is Edmonton one of those loyal fan bases, but also the fact they do it all as a small market makes them easily to like. This move, if indeed it is true, is significant however, for Quebec because it is proving they are serious about getting a club one way or another, but they must do it the right way, not by hurting a brother province.
There are reports Oilers ownership tried a similar scare tactic in June involving moving the team to Hamilton and Copps Coliseum, so who do you trust here?
If Quebec is to gain a team it would be best not to alienate the rest of a country in which they share and do it the right way by waiting for the NHL dominos to fall where they may and be pro-active in picking up the pieces when the time comes.