In a recent article, I wrote about how a pressure/lobby group can help facilitate either a new North America professional sports franchise or a returned former beloved team. In this article, I will focus on the Quebec City lobby group, ZoneNordiques which has special problems with getting their team back that other lobby groups might not have.
The two main obstacles that other cities seeking a new NHL franchise do not have and which are the main reasons that Quebec does not have its team back already are elitism and racism. In 2010, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman listed three conditions that all would-be NHL franchises must have: Fan-base, arena, and ownership. Quebec City has a fanatical fan-base and the new Videotron arena is so good, the NHL granted Quebec a World Cup exhibition game.
The problem is ownership which is tainted with racism and elitism. The would-be new owner of Quebecor, Pierre Karl Peladeau has made some enemies on the NHL Board of Governors, both for his politics (he is a supporter of the provincial separatist political party, Parti Quebecois), and for making an inappropriate racial remark about one of the governors, Geoff Molson and also obstructing the business of one of Molson’s colleagues. He has made no attempt to reconcile with Molson, and the NHL, though it likes Quebec as a franchise and wants that $500 million entry fee, wants no part of him. The NHL is prepared to wait indefinitely until a suitable owner appears so the result has been a stalemate.
It has been my contention that Gary Bettman has been working behind the scenes trying to find a suitable owner for a new Quebec team, and because there is virtually no news, it is difficult to know if anything is going on and if any progress is being made. It can also be speculated that Bettman may know that one of the Board of Governors either wants to sell or move his franchise and that Bettman is waiting for the current season to end and make the same kind of ownership manoeuver that he made to restore the Winnipeg Jets.
So what can the official Quebec lobby group, ZoneNordiques do? They are the most fanatical of all the Quebec Nordiques fans and like the previous “Manitoba Mythbusters” of the Winnipeg situation, want the team back the most.
As far as the ownership problem is concerned, assuming that Quebec will get an expansion franchise and not a relocated team, there are two possible solutions. First find a stereotype owner from inside the Province of Quebec. It goes without saying that this person will have enough money. Most likely he/she will be French Canadian, be tolerant and non-political, know the Quebec local, provincial and possibly even the Maritime markets, someone who wants to avoid unacceptable controversies like racism, be discreet and patient in public, and will put the Nordiques and the NHL first in all matters. ZoneNordiques can help Bettman and the NHL locate such people. Both in 1995 and now in 2016-17, no rich French Canadian investor from Quebec has come forward to rescue the Nordiques. It has been Peladeau or nobody.
At one time I speculated that Mario Lemieux might sell his Pittsburgh Penguin shares and then front a Quebec City ownership group. I wondered if the resignation of Patrick Roy from the Colorado Avalanche with General Manager ex-Nordique Joe Sakic’s blessing had something to do with resolving the ownership problem. So far, nothing has cracked the wall of silence. And that makes me wonder if such rich French Canadian Quebec residents even exist. ZoneNordiques members can do an investigation into this matter. They would know the who’s who of the Province of Quebec better than anybody. And if no such people exist, Gary Bettman, the NHL, and all Nordiques fans are wasting their time. Because if there are no people who fit the NHL stereotype owner, then Quebec City must accept the only other option: Outside ownership either by expansion or relocation.
This is nothing new in professional sports. Both Ottawa and Winnipeg in the NHL are owned by Torontonians, and when the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB were created in 1977, much of the financing came from Montreal. A new Quebec City owner could be either an anglophone Quebecer like Molson or Charles Bronfman of the Montreal Expos or a complete outsider from either “English Canada” or the United States who cannot speak a word of French.
Are Quebec Nordiques fans prepared to accept this? And it starts with ZoneNordiques. They have to debate this issue either on their website or amongst themselves first. Why? Because if the most fanatical Quebec Nordiques fans cannot accept an outsider who cannot speak French as an owner of the team, then NOBODY can. And if it is discovered that the ethnic and language background of a potential owner is more important than getting the Nordiques back, perhaps it is better that Quebec does not get a team. In every professional sports league in North America. teams are composed of multi-racial players with different religions who play in cosmopolitan cities. The NHL cannot tolerate an owner with even a sniff of racism. Can you imagine the uproar that would occur if an NFL, MLB, or NBA owner made an inappropriate remark about black people? Morale would be deteriorate, the league would get a bad image, and possibly there would even be lawsuits.
The NHL (and the CFL, NFL, NBA, and MLB) is not going to place a franchise in a city where it is going to get involved in unnecessary, inappropriate political, racial, ethnic, language, and religious controversies. They will not come to a city where an outside owner is going to be subjected to these kind of pressures. Hopefully ZoneNordiques will be in favor of outside ownership if that comes to pass and is the only way to get the Nordiques back. And if that happens, there is plenty that they can do.
They have to prepare the rest of their followers and the provincial Quebec public to accept such a situation. If there are troublemaking fans who want to stir up inappropriate controversies, then they have to be dealt with. If members of the French Canadian press throughout the province want to make language, ethnic background, and religion an issue, then they have to be told to lay off. And politicians who want to restrict minority rights still further and make owning and operating a Quebec City team more difficult through retaliatory legislation should be warned that it is unpopular and will be politically punished.
This issue is not just confined to the Nordiques. As noted above, none of the other professional sports leagues will place a franchise in Quebec City if inappropriate controversies ensue. Nor will the Olympics and other top international sports events come. Quebec will not get a Worlds Fair or international conventions if it gets a bad image. ZoneNordiques can help in this matter. They can displace any bad myths that have arisen. They can show Bettman, the NHL Board of Governors, and any potential investors that Quebec is a tolerant place to invest in and live. They can dispel any fears that outside investors might have about restarting the Nordiques again. Right now the ownership issue is in a stalemate. ZoneNordiques can help tip the scales in their favor and get their dream back like the Manitoba Mythbusters did.