More than two years after its expansion bid was deferred by the league, there are still obstacles in the way of a potential Quebec City NHL team.
Just a few years ago, Quebec City seemed ripe for an NHL expansion franchise. Though a small market, it had a passionate fan base that was longing for a new NHL team to replace the Quebec Nordiques (logo pictured), who relocated to Denver in 1995, and a modern arena in the form of the Videotron Centre. Videotron Centre opened in 2015 and was designed to lure the NHL back to Quebec City, and an expansion bid led by Quebecor was seen as a way to bring a team to the venue.
The NHL was expected to select bids from Quebec City and Las Vegas for teams 31 and 32, but announced in June 2016 that was choosing Las Vegas while deferring Quebec City’s bid. Discussions of a potential Quebec City NHL team have been quiet since, and Seattle is now moving closer to having its expansion bid approved. Seattle would put the NHL at 32 teams and it is uncertain whether the league would add more franchises, given that its number of clubs would be matched only by the NFL among fellow major North American professional sports leagues. The relocation of an existing team is also far from certain, but Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau says that they will be open to any scenario. More from The Washington Post:
“It’s the $100 million question,” Péladeau said. “There’s not too many scenarios. It’s either a new franchise or a relocation. And in every scenario, we’re open for business.”
Relocating a team already in the Eastern Conference is Quebec City’s best hope — ironic, considering the town lost the Nordiques when the club moved to Denver in 1995 and became the Colorado Avalanche. It stung even more when that same team with captain Joe Sakic won the Stanley Cup in its first season.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has insisted that he has no interest or designs on relocating a team, but in the Eastern Conference, there are some obvious candidates: The Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers all struggle with attendance.
“At least [team owners] have several scenarios, which is interesting for them and interesting for what other cities in North America are able to provide to the league,” Péladeau said. “At the end of the day, if there is a location where you have a strong business plan and a passionate owner with financial means, you have more possibilities to win and to participate in the total wealth of the league, instead of subsidizing continuously some pieces.
A Seattle expansion franchise can solve one problem for the NHL that Quebec City could not, as it would end a geographical imbalance between the Eastern and Western conferences. The NHL cited its geographical imbalance among the reasons for deferring Quebec City in 2016, with another issue being concerns over the Canadian dollar.
There are also no signs at this point that an existing Eastern Conference team is exploring a move. Quebec City still offers intrigue and a clear desire for a team of its own, but for now there are plenty of questions that would need to be answered for it to obtain a NHL franchise.