In 1995, Québec City’s National Hockey League team, the Nordiques, was sold to new investors and moved to Denver, where they became the Colorado Avalanche. To add insult to injury, the team won the Stanley Cup the year after they left Québec City. It was a dagger to the heart of Québec City hockey fans.
Since then, city authorities have been working to bring a team back. Most notably, they built an NHL-ready hockey arena in the Lower Town. They built it on spec. In other words, they had no promise of a team; they built it so that they could say “OK, NHL, we are ready to go. Give us a team!” Along with this multi-million-dollar token of goodwill, NHL enthusiasts in Québec City have an excellent argument: Cities across the South – Miami, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Phoenix – where there is nary a speck of natural ice to be found, have NHL teams. Québec City, where ice is part of our reality for 6 months of the year, doesn’t. It is an absolute travesty, if you ask me! Why would the NHL put a hockey team in Miami, for instance? Well, because it has millions of people. But Miami only has eight (fair-weather) hockey fans! And all eight of them are Canadian snowbirds who spend their winters there! Here in the Québec City metropolitan area, we have 850,000 people and we have 850,000 hockey fans. I want the Nordiques back now! You might sense that I get a little worked up over the matter. Understand that I am not even from here. Now imagine how someone who grew up rooting for the Nordiques feels about it.
For several years now, the Capitale Nationale has had its eye on the Phoenix Coyotes, a team that has had a troubled relationship with its host city, Glendale, Arizona. In fact, every time someone on the Glendale City Council sneezes, it makes the news here in Québec City, provoking another round of speculation and optimism among Québec City hockey fans. Well, the city council has sneezed again. They have just voted to terminate the Coyote’s lease on the Gila River Arena. Here we go again!
Are the chances good that this turn of events will bring a team back to Québec City? Frankly, no. NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, has said that he is committed to keeping the Coyotes in Arizona. And even if that is not possible, smart money says that Houston, yet another sunbelt city, is next in line to put a team on the ice.
This reality will not prevent Québec City hockey fans from buzzing with optimism. I am among those hockey fans. Go, Nordiques, go!!!