Quebec fans do not despair, you are getting your team back. If one can read between the lines, speculate on what NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is doing behind the scenes to get Quebec City back into the NHL, the likely scenario to occur is a returned Quebec Nordiques with Mario Lemieux as owner.
It makes the most sense. In 2010, Bettman made a tour of the three cities who lost their teams in the 1990s Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford, and opened the doors for readmission providing they fulfilled certain conditions. These included an adequate fan base, good ownership, and a proper NHL arena.
Winnipeg is already back and Quebec has desperately tried to comply with Bettman’s terms. There is no problem with the fan base and everyone agrees that the new Videotron arena is a superb NHL arena. But the prospective bidder for owning the team, Quebecor, owned by Pierre Karl Peladeau was unacceptable to the NHL.
Peladeau made public racist statements about one of the NHL Board of Governors, Montreal Canadiens CEO Geoff Molson, statements that were offensive not only to Molson but insulted every Canadian and American English speaking NHL owner. Any Quebec bid by Peladeau and similar thinking Quebecers was dead at that moment.
At the same time Bettman wants to fulfill his promise. It is embarrassing not only for the NHL but for him personally to hobnob with important municipal and provincial politicians, to encourage a city and province to spend nearly $400 million of its tax dollars on a new arena and then not fulfill the NHL’s part of the bargain. He has to find an acceptable owner for Quebec City.
And who better to be that owner than Mario Lemieux? Already he has vast experience as an NHL Governor being part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Probably what happened when it became apparent to Bettman that Peladeau was an unsuitable owner, is that he approached Lemieux and asked him if he would consider selling his stake in the Pittsburgh franchise and then front a bid to place another NHL team in his native province.
Of course there is no current official confirmation of this happening but it is the most sensible solution to this unfortunate situation. Lemieux or someone like him is the perfect Quebec City owner.
Lemieux is French Canadian, a hero throughout his province. He is no bigot like Peladeau and would be welcomed at the NHL board by Molson and every other NHL governor. He has been part owner of Pittsburgh and knows the hockey business. Unlike Peladeau, he can be counted on to be politically neutral and put the Nordiques and the NHL first.
Just as importantly, Lemieux is well liked and admired not only in French speaking Canada but also in the United States and the rest of Canada. He could probably put together an investment group composed of not only French Canadians but also of investors from other parts of Canada and the United States should there not be enough investment capital to be found in the Province of Quebec.
The only question is how fast will all this occur. Right now it is probable speculation occurring behind the scenes. Right now Bettman is probably helping to find a buyer for Lemieux’s Pittsburgh shares and aiding him to put together a suitable Quebec City investment group.
It is only speculation right now but it is probably the best solution. Quebec City is coming back into the NHL with Mario.