Will Quebec City Get Another Chance At An NHL Franchise Team?

As the NHL’s most financial struggling team the Arizona Coyotes moves to Salt Lake City Utah and become a new name and new team after the NHL Board of Governors voted unanimously Thursday to approve a $1.2 billion sale from Alex Meruelo to Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith, the city & fan base that is most deserving of a franchise is still waiting in Quebec City. We have seen cities like Las Vegas & Seattle get an expansion team in the NHL in recent years before Quebec. We have seen the Atlanta Thrashers be sold and moved to Winnipeg Jets where they are thriving.

Formed in 1972 as part of the now-defunct World Hockey Association, the Quebec Nordiques had been losing money for years. It had been originally owned by a San Francisco group as the San Francisco Sharks but when the investors failed to come up with the necessary financing it had been hastily sold to a group of Quebec City investors. After the WHA collapsed the team moved over to the NHL in 1979. What the Nordiques lacked was a fan-base. Quebec City was the smallest market in the NHL and the second-smallest major-league city in North America. Only Green Bay, Wisconsin; home to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, was smaller. Though the Nordiques had the loyalty of local hockey fans, they weren’t enough to keep the team viable in a rapidly changing hockey environment.

The Nordiques inability to expand their following was largely the result of Quebec City’s status as a monolingual francophone city. With no privately-owned English-language radio stations and only one privately-owned English-language television station, there was little opportunity for the team to broaden its reach. he near-total lack of English-language media limited the Nordiques’ appeal to the rest of the continent and made Anglophone players wary of playing for them. As the team continued to lose money, its owners begged for a bailout from Quebec’s provincial government. Premier Jacques Parizeau turned the request down flat. No politician was prepared to risk subsidizing a sports organization that paid its players multimillion-dollar salaries.

Finally in May 1995, right after the Nordiques were eliminated from post-season play, Nordiques CEO Marcel Aubut announced that he had no other choice but to accept an offer from COMSAT Entertainment Group, owner of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. COMSAT moved the team to Denver where it was renamed the Colorado Avalanche. Though the Nordiques franchise and Aubut himself never lost money on the team, Aubut feared losing money and sold the team before the possibility became a reality. The sale price was enough to put a $15 million payout in Aubut’s pocket. Things are different now and Quebecor, a large Canadian diversified media and telecommunications company serving Québec based in Montreal, are looking to bring a team back to Quebec City

Quebec City also has a modern arena that needs a team to fill its seats, and we know full well that there’s a deeply-ingrained hockey culture there that would rush to support an NHL team. We also know that there’s an uphill climb for Quebec City when you strictly look at its population,  Quebec City’s city population of approximately 550,000 would be the smallest of any NHL market, while the metropolitan population of more than 800,000 would be the second smallest. Quebec is a smaller locale, but, like the Winnipeg Jets, they have a built-in, ready-to-go fan base that undoubtedly would have better attendance than many current NHL markets.

And yet Salt Lake City got a franchise!

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