Everybody is questioning and speculating why Patrick Roy has resigned as coach and vice president of the Colorado Avalanche but to me it would not be surprising if it really has to do with the Quebec City situation.
First the background. In 2010, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made a tour of the three cities that lost their NHL franchises in the 1990s, Hartford, Quebec, and Winnipeg, and offered them terms for readmission to the league; a great fan base, a proper NHL arena, and an acceptable NHL owner. Winnipeg is already back in and Quebec built a new arena with Bettman’s encouragement and applied unsuccessfully for an expansion franchise.
The NHL is publicly explaining that the reason for the rejection of Quebec is the low Canadian dollar and that Quebec is an eastern city and they need another western team to balance up the conferences, but that is not the real reason. The NHL wants nothing to do with Pierre Karl Peladeau, majority owner of Quebecor which sought to be the new Quebec owner. Peladeau is a supporter of the separatist Quebec political party Parti Quebecois, and squashed whatever little chance he had of joining the NHL Board of Governors by publicly questioning the suitability of Board member Geoff Molson owning the Montreal Canadiens because he was an anglophone Quebecer. Such blatant racism was offensive not only to Molson but probably to the majority of the English-speaking NHL Board. Bettman had no choice but to reject Quebec’s bid.
At the same time, that put Bettman on the spot. He is not going to make a tour of cities, offer them terms and then reject them when they make a strong attempt to comply like Quebec has. He is not going offend important people like the Quebec City mayor, the Quebec Provincial Premier, encourage them and their communities to spend nearly $400 million tax dollars on a new arena and then not accept them. The NHL’s and his own personal integrity is on the line. The NHL also wants that $500 million expansion fee. So right now behind the scenes, he is attempting to find a suitable owner for a new Quebec City team.
Is it just coincidence that Pittsburgh Penguin owner Mario Lemieux is trying to sell his share of ownership and that Patrick Roy resigns from Colorado? There is no real reason for Lemieux to sell his shares in the Penguins or for Roy to quit the Colorado Avalanche. Both men have strong emotional ties to the teams they are leaving. For Lemieux, owning the Penguins is a dream come true just as it is for Roy to coach and be vice president of the Colorado Avalance, and also work for his friend and teammate Joe Sakic.
There has to be some strong inducement for them to leave and the probable answer is involvement with a new Quebec City team and both Lemieux and Roy have strong emotional ties to Quebec City. They are also the ideal potential owners for Gary Bettman and the NHL; French Canadian NHL heroes with no political ties who would put the team and the NHL first above any other consideration. They would be welcomed to the NHL Board by Molson and every other NHL governor.
So while everybody is scratching their heads about Roy’s resignation, my guess is that he and probably Lemieux will be involved with a returned Quebec Nordiques, and that ex-Nordique Sakic knows and approves of it though he’ll publicly pretend that he does not.
Gary Bettman is moving behind the scenes and Roy’s resignation from Colorado may be the next step in solving the Quebec problem. There may be other former French Canadian NHL players who will make some unexpected startling decisions in the future too. And what about former Nordique players? Can the Stastny brothers and Michel Goulet be far behind?
Quebec City is coming back into the NHL. It is just a matter of time and finding the right people.