There Is No “Plan B” For The Quebec Nordiques

Last month there was an article published in The Hockey News and on their website recounting Quebec City’s misery at seeing Las Vegas start its new team while their city still has its nose to the NHL glass looking in. The article argues that Quebec City is prepared to be patient and wait until the day that the NHL relents and opens its doors to them.

The article goes on to lament the tragedy of unfamiliar Las Vegas getting a team while hockey mad Quebec suffers. It also makes mention of the “official” NHL excuse, the low Canadian dollar. It exalts the virtues of the city, lists all its advantages including its increased population of over 800,000, its beautiful arena, the Videotron, and the “stable ownership that won’t flinch”.

That potential ownership is Quebecor, a media giant owned and operated by Pierre Karl Peladeau. Quebecor also happens to own The Hockey News. For that reason the article declines to mention the REAL reason Quebec City does not have a team: The owner is unsuitable to the NHL.

In 2010, when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made his tour of Quebec and the other two cities that lost their NHL franchises in the 1990s, he listed three conditions of readmission to the league; fan base, arena, and ownership. Quebec City has always had a great fan base and the NHL loves the Videotron which they have rewarded with a World Cup exhibition game and Montreal Canadiens preseason exhibition games each year.

That leaves the ownership factor as the reason for Quebec City being out of the league. Initially when Quebec was turned down by the NHL, I believed the league’s “official” excuses; the low Canadian dollar and conference imbalance. But after doing more research sometime later for another article on the Quebec City situation, I came across an article in Maclean’s Magazine explaining Pierre Karl Peladeau’s relationship with the NHL. I immediately discarded the fictitious reasons the NHL gives and what I had believed.

The article amply explained the real reason Quebec City’s bid was officially “deferred”. Peladeau has made many enemies on the NHL Board, particularly Montreal Canadiens owner, Geoff Molson, to whom he lost the Montreal Canadiens to in a bidding war. Briefly in one sentence, the NHL is rejecting Peladeau because of his public, inappropriate racial remarks about Molson, his pro-separatist provincial politics, his obstructionist business tactics, and his general untrustworthiness. Now ask yourself, if someone came to you with a cheque for half a billion dollars would you put it on hold and “defer” it?

You won’t unless you have a valid reason for doing so. The NHL will not tolerate a public racist on the Board. The damage he or she could do far outweighs whatever money he or she is offering. It was an easy decision for the NHL to reject Peladeau and invent excuses like low Canadian dollar and unbalanced conferences to cover things up. He is unacceptable to the NHL as the owner for both Montreal and Quebec City.

So one of his subsidiaries, The Hockey News publishes a recent article extolling the virtues of a Quebec NHL team, the suffering and patience of the fans as they accept some fictitious “plan B” by the NHL and makes no mention of Peladeau’s public racist insults about Molson and the other reasons why the NHL rejected him. It’s a clever way of pinning the blame for the cruel treatment of Quebec on the United States and “English Canada”. But then, isn’t that what the separatists always do?

And while I am writing an article debunking myths, here’s another one that should be refuted. When Quebec was turned down, some websites reported that Quebec was being rejected in favor of Las Vegas, implying that the two cities were competing against each other. That’s rubbish. The two cities were never competing against each other. The NHL wanted both expansion fees, making the profit an even billion. Las Vegas never got its new team at the expense of Quebec.

In fact the last NHL expansion was a failure. Before the $500 million entry fee was revealed, it was being reported in the media and on many websites that there were four “done deals” already sewn up for the NHL; second Toronto and Seattle as well as Quebec and Las Vegas. To only get one quarter of the potential new franchises was a major slap in the face to the NHL.  They obviously wanted Quebec AND more franchises.

These fictitious arguments and lamentations only confuse things, but Bettman was clear. Quebec and Hartford (and every future NHL expansion team) will get back into the NHL if they have a great fan base, a proper NHL arena, and an acceptable owner. And only when they meet ALL these conditions will they be accepted. There is no “plan B”. Until they fully comply, forget it.


13 thoughts on “There Is No “Plan B” For The Quebec Nordiques

  1. I totally agree they were looking at 2 – 4 teams in this expansion and doing it over the course of likely 10 to 12 years. Maybe a little longer to spread out the rosters. Expansion is always fascinating to me and there was a lot of talk about there wasn’t going to be an expansion. No plans at all but there was several cities listed as were going to try when it came available. It seemed like there wasn’t a a lot of time prior to the expansion bids coming up.And none of the cities in the east wanting to play in the west again(Detroit and Columbus) I also saw ideas floated about Quebec playing in the west till another team would join to make it even. And I read Quebec was cool with it as long as they got a team they did not care. So if they are that wanting of a team to play in a conference that so totally would make it harder for them. Your reasons make sense. It has to be a reason so bad that they’d turn down a check of ½ billion dollars. Maybe they should have said ½ billion us dollars so they could have gotten more. If this man is the racist you claim he has no business in the NHL. Just like that fan of St. Louis who commented on P.K. Suppan scoring a goal.

  2. Thanks for responding, Josh. I’ll go over your points one by one.

    I’ve written lots of articles on this blog about the Quebec City expansion situation and Pierre Karl Peladeau. In the Maclean’s article it summarized that upon losing his bid to own Montreal to Molson (By the way, the Molson family [owners of one of Canada’s 2 biggest breweries], has owned the Canadiens in the past. One member of the family is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.) Peladeau said that it was not suitable for Molson to own the Canadiens because he is an Anglophone Quebecer. That offended probably not only Molson but many English-speaking members of the NHL Board. Any chance Peladeau had at becoming an NHL owner of any team was probably lost, long before a single shovel went into the ground to build the Videotron. The article also said that Peladeau tried to obstruct one of Molson’s business colleagues in some matter. And as I wrote in another article on this blog, Molson has been elected to the NHL’s Executive Committee so it proves that the NHL is prepared to back him to the hilt. He may want a Quebec City NHL team but he won’t have Peladeau as its owner.

    Yes, Quebec City would tolerate playing in the Western Conference just so they would get their team back. But it is doubtful that many western teams would like to make the long flight to Quebec many times. It has happened before, both times with teams from Atlanta. When the Flames became Calgary, they remained in their east division for a few years until the NHL reorganized itself. And if you remember, when the Thrashers became Winnipeg, they played against southern NHL teams until the NHL agreement with the NHLPA was signed.

    And you are right about the NHL wanting more teams than 2. As I’ve written in several articles, before expansion was officially announced, lots of websites including media ones were reporting that there were 4 “done deals” already secretly confirmed. By adding 4 new teams the NHL unofficially confirmed 2 major developments. First, it would likely mean realigning into an NFL structure which would make it easy to grow the league in the future. Second, by adding 4 teams, making the league 34 instead of a symmetrical 32 like the NFL, they were aiming for the next symmetrical number of 40, my guess probably within the next 2 decades.

    Just like you and lots of other fans, (which is why I write about this topic so often), I find expansion fascinating. And I would also urge you to keep your eye on MLB and the NBA too. They don’t like being stuck at the awkward number of 30 teams either and will probably realign if they can get 2 more expansion teams. And expansion in the NHL is not over by a long shot. The NHL will not be happy with 31 teams any more than 30. By going on that 2010 tour to Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford and offering them terms for readmission, it was obvious that Bettman has ambitions to grow the league far beyond the NFL limit of 32. So far it has been disappointing but it is far from over. A good article of mine on this blog to read is “The NHL Is Committed To Becoming a 40 Team League”. It’s one of the most popular that I’ve written. Check it out.

    • Sorry didn’t have time to write a proper response late night. I have read you articles about NHL become a 40 team league it was what brought me to this page. Every so often I do a search about expansion of 3 sports leagues. ( sorry I just don’t follow the NBA) But the MLB when they expand they do 2 it seems every time they expand. NFL same thing 2 teams however when the NHL expands they normally due 4. And they did stagger them out over the course of several years. Or thats what it seems like my memory isn’t what it used to be(not that it was ever that good). This was the first place I ever read anything of than the company line of low Canadian dollar as a reason they were not going back to Quebec. I know Molson well I don’t know Molson but I know the name. As in Molson ice or all the beer ads in hockey games. Its like Busch in the states. Busch owned the St. Louis Eagles and St. Louis Cardinals and that beer company. Well I didn’t realize the Jets played in the Southeast before the realignment. That was a different division so I didn’t notice it. In fact I think it was the year they moved to the central that I noticed. And I thought that they just expanded again. Then I was listening to the radio and they talked about how the Jets are better since they left Atlanta. So I had to look it up and couldn’t believe I didn’t realize that they moved. Moved the 2nd team out of Atlanta. Its crazy to me that someone that has that kind of money and power is that openly racist. So much that it cost them the team that they want. I think that Quebec best hope might not be expansion but relocation. If they can find an owner willing to move and make money as opposed to losing money without fan showing up to games.

  3. Thanks for responding Josh. I’ll go over your points again.

    1. Jets and realignment

    When the Thrashers became the Jets, the NHL simply kept the status quo, mainly because they were waiting to sign a new agreement with the NHLPA. Once that was signed, the Jets were swiftly moved west. One of the reasons why the NHL was willing to take Winnipeg back was because Detroit and Columbus did not like being in the Western Conference and shifting the Thrashers to Winnipeg allowed them to switch those two teams to the east.

    2. Molson and Busch

    They sell Budweiser in Toronto and you can get Rolling Rock and Michelob in Buffalo. Molson is sold in the United States though I don’t know where and how extensively. Certainly you can get it in the border cities of Buffalo and Detroit. Molson has been a major sponsor of NHL hockey on Canadian television since before I was born.

    3. Quebec Relocation?

    A possibility though most likely it would be an eastern team because of the conference imbalance. A sensible solution would be to shift the Coyotes to Quebec and expand by 2 western cities. Unlike the NFL, the NHL, MLB and the NBA seldom relocate. Bettman has fought to the death to keep a team in Phoenix. They want Quebec back but they would prefer expansion. Relocation means a loss of status. The only thing that I can bet for certain is that unless a major reconciliation takes place along the lines of St. Paul, the NHL wants nothing to do with Pierre Karl Peladeau.

    4 Expansion
    Usually leagues expand by 2 teams to keep their conferences in balance, especially the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Right now MLS is expanding every few years in a random manner. Leagues usually only expand by 2 teams at a time because they get criticism that the quality of product gets watered down. (See the exceptions below.)

    The NHL is different from the other 3 leagues because of hockey’s limited appeal to the United States. For a long time there were only 6 teams, two of them in Canada. In 1967, the league doubled its size by 6 cities. Then they followed the usual pattern of adding 2 teams until 1980 when the WHA merged into the NHL and 4 new teams were added. They added Ottawa and Tampa Bay and since Cleveland had disappeared, they added San Jose to make an even number of teams. Since then, they have been expanding by either 2 or 4 teams. Getting only Las Vegas when they were supposed to be getting at least 4 new cities was a major humiliation. There definitely will be more expansion to come.

    • I commenting about the Molsons and The Buschs being a lot alike. Both hugely successful companies, both beer companies and both owned sport franchises. As for relocations I would agree a loss of status however there was a lot of relocations in the NBA. During the 90’s 1984-5 the kings left for California and the clippers for LA. And the ones I remember the grizzles move to Memphis in 2001 the hornets in 2002 and the Seattle SuperSonics in 2008. Now MLb seems never to relocate teams 1972 Texas Rangers and the 2005 Expos. Well they really want Arizona to work it’s like what I think would happen in Houston. It’s a huge growing city but unless they win for enough time no one will care. However I think that if you moved from Carolina to Quebec City. Carolina 2 million metro to Quebec might be a palatable sell at 800k.

  4. Thanks for updating me on the NBA. You won’t have any trouble selling tickets in Quebec City. Quebec should never have lost its team in the first place. The trouble was always the arena and the ownership, never the fan base.

    • I understand that if you lose an area NY/NJ it may look like a status loss. Miami is 5m metro. A loss of a team in NY/NJ may appear a larger loss than Carolina’s metro is 2 million. Its the perception of a loss of status. They show have never put a 3 team in the NY/NJ area. They should likely lose 1 of them. No other league has more than 2 and one team always is the poor brother to the old established team. In hockey there are 2 poor brothers to the rangers. and all 3 arenas are with in 2 minutes from each other. I think with the arena issues with the NYI. They have no home so unless they go back to Nassau or maybe share space with the devils or the rangers they are moving. But maybe thats the idea. Maybe there will be no loss of status if the team is forced to move. To either Hartford or Quebec City. Move to Hartford is a 2 hour move. The move to Quebec is an 8 hour one. The move back to Hartford would still be in the area.. But its like you said its hard to move a team with a winning past and both teams have that.

  5. It will be tough to lose any team from the New York area, Josh. Actually the worst of the bunch is the New York Rangers and nobody wants to lose them. The score in Stanley Cups in modern NHL history is Islanders 4, Devils 3, Rangers 1. So getting rid of either the Islanders or Devils would not look good. The NHL wants both Quebec and Hartford back so long as they have suitable owners and arenas, but they would prefer expansion which would allow them to collect that $500 million expansion fee and mean no loss of status by shifting an existing NHL team.

    • I agree and the Rangers are like the Cubs terrible forever but popular to the fans. If you move Devils or the Islanders to Hartford they would still be close. Move Carolina to Quebec.

  6. It’s not a question of closeness, Josh. It’s a question of identity. If the Islanders were to accept Hartford’s offer, the fans there would want them to be the Whalers, not the Islanders. They would not be wearing blue uniforms with a Long Island logo. They would no longer be the Islanders. The Islanders would no longer exist. And it’s the same with Carolina. Even with inglorious Coyotes, Thrashers, and Blue Jackets.

    And then there are the fans. Even in situations like Phoenix where there have always been few fans, someone is going to be hurt if they become attached to the team and then they leave. You should know that yourself with first the Cardinals and now the Rams. I greatly prefer expansion to relocation for that reason. There is always an ugliness, a ruthlessness with relocation. Much as I was glad that the Thrashers became Winnipeg and knowing that they will better off there, there were probably some people in Atlanta who like yourself became fanatical hockey fans and losing their team was a blow to them, just like it was when Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford lost their teams. I know if the Coyotes leave Phoenix, most likely they will be in a better market, but there are some fans there that you are going to have to feel sorry for (remember Austin Matthews).

    • While I agree. I understand they would not be the Islanders and they might not be the Whalers also. Many groups may tell them they would be not happy and maybe the Hartford Insurance Salesmen and skate around in sweaters that look like cheap suit. But seriously I get it I agree. I would way rather expand. As far as population of New Jersey. So here is kinda the deal. The largest cities border NYC and Long Island or Philadelphia. So if you move to say Newark, NJ you only moved the team 30 minutes away. I don’t know if that is worth the move. If you go to the largest Metro area in NJ that is not NY or Philadelphia adjacent. Then you get Lehigh Valley which is 60 miles to Philadelphia and 90 Miles to NYC. 800k population also So it may work maybe.

  7. I like your idea about moving the Devils to the middle of New Jersey, Josh. Like the Islanders, the Devils when they are not Stanley Cup Champions get treated like poor cousins of the Rangers. Again, it is a question of identity. Moving them to some more central place within the state might give them a fuller separate identity with New Jersey instead of being considered another team in the New York region.

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