We end 2016 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Arena Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #9: Quebec City is left out by the NHL.
Perhaps the biggest story from the NHL’s expansion announcement earlier this year was that, after a long wait, Las Vegas was finally landing its first major sports franchise. However, that announcement also extended a long wait for Quebec City, a passionate hockey city that was left on the outside looking in.
In the leadup to the NHL’s announcement about its next additions, Quebec City stood out as a candidate with some strong credentials. It had a fan base eager for a replacement for the Quebec Nordiques, the franchise that previous NHL left for Denver in 1995. It also offered a state-of-the-art venue in the Videotron Centre, and had the backing of the media company Quebecor.
However, there were signs leading up the NHL’s announcement in June that Quebec City faced some hurdles, including concerns over the weakening Canadian dollar. Ultimately, the league made the decision to reward Las Vegas with its 31st franchise, but left Quebec City out of this round of expansion.
Indications since have been that Quebec City still considers itself an NHL market. Passion for the sport runs deep in the city, and the Videotron Centre still has a lot to offer for a franchise. As we noted in June, though, there are plenty of questions about how and when Quebec City can attract a team:
The NHL went with a rather unusual decision to go with expansion of a single team (the Las Vegas team should be formally announced this week) instead of two, suggesting that another team could be entering the league down the road. It was widely seen as a snub to Quebec City, which went ahead and worked with Quebecor on the spanking-new Videotron Centre in order to lure the NHL back to Quebec City.
There are still plenty of hurt feelings in Quebec City about the loss of the Nordiques to Denver following the 1994-1995 NHL season; while the market is small, the passions run deep. And while it doesn’t look like there will be another NHL expansion in the near future, the hope runs deep that the city can land a team on the move, much the way Winnipeg landed a team, leading to a revival of the Winnipeg Jets. (Peter Karmanos says there are no plans to move the Carolina Hurricanes to Quebec despite an anemic attendance of 12,203 fans per game last season — worst in the NHL.)
Clearly, many hoped that this would finally be the year that Quebec City would regain its status as an NHL town. While that did not happen, and plenty of uncertainties remain in the city’s attempts to attract a team, it’s clear that many in Quebec City are going to push to keep the NHL dream alive.
Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2016 List: