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Quebec City on verge of new arena, return of NHL?

Quebec NordiquesPolitical pressure, which usually hampers efforts at public financing of arenas in the United States, could have the opposite effect in Quebec City, where local and provincial officials will meet today to discuss a C$400M arena that could potentially pave the way for a return of the NHL — or even a Winter Olympics.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume and at lease one business leader are scheduled to meet today to discuss the potential for a new arena. It’s assumed they will be reviewing a feasibility plan that’s not yet been released to the public; the plan should lay out expected revenues and identify potential government sources of revenue for construction.

The politics are fascinating: since there’s a very good chance the NHL would return to Quebec City if a new arena were built, it could be political suicide for anyone facing elections this fall to oppose it, no matter what the financing scheme is.

But we do hear efforts to build the arena are a little more advanced than what’s being played out in the media. Pierre Karl Péladeau, the CEO of Quebecor, has been rumored to already be chatting with NHL and city officials about what it would take for the NHL to return; while there’s a lot of passion for hockey in Quebec City, there may not be the robust business support needed to make the NHL work. So some deep pockets — like those with Quebecor, a finalist for the Montreal Canadiens — are needed.

So there you have it: a potential new arena, potential public financing of a facility, and a potential owner. All of this bodes well for a return of the NHL to Quebec City — but there’s a lot of work to be completed before that first shovel is overturned.

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