November 12, 2008 :: 1:53pm ET
Quebec City working towards new arena
By David Pagnotta
[Toronto, ON] -- I've been saying for some time that bringing another
team to Ontario is a move the NHL will have to make. Nobody will deny
the fact that a market like Southern Ontario can support another NHL
franchise. It's quite clear, given the population and the amount of
hockey nuts in the area, that a new team could do very well.
If you've followed my preaching,
you'll already know that I'm a big fan of bringing a team to the
city of Kitchener. With 2.5 million page within a 30-minute drive,
it's the best option. A new owner wouldn't have to pay any fees to
the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Buffalo Sabres, as this location
would be out of those territories. I've never been a real supporter
of bringing a team to Hamilton, even though it might be more
recognizable to the average U.S. fan than Kitchener.
And while I firmly believe that
another team will end up in Southern Ontario soon enough, there are
other options North of the border.
Winnipeg always seems to get
overlooked. And unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be an
ownership group that has stepped up in an attempt to bring an NHL
team back to Manitoba.
only other option would be Quebec City.
Winnipeg and Quebec lost their
teams back in the 90s. The fans were, and still are, there.
Like Winnipeg, fans in Quebec have
been petitioning to bring another team to their city.
QuebecLNH.com lists over 80,000
signatures of people hoping to see the Nordiques back in town.
Would that option make sense? Of
course it would. The Quebec City market is filled with passionate
hockey fans. They're still crushed over having to watch their team
play in Colorado. The rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and the
Nordiques was unlike any other.
They want their team back, and
guess what... they appear to be taking the steps to getting out. Or,
fighting for one, at least.
Over the last three years, various
investors have been trying to build a new sports complex just
outside of Quebec City, in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures. The "Centre
Nordik" would house an 18,000-20,000 seat arena, a soccer stadium, a
hotel, a children's pavilion, and various office buildings.
La Presse Canadienne, it now
appears European investors are willing to spend $200 million on a
new facility, if the Quebec government is willing to chip in close
to $50 million. Quebec premier Jean Charest recently said that an
investment of $50 million was a realistic option.
With the right facility in place,
which could have an overall value of $325 million, Quebec might
finally have a sound argument for a potential investor willing to
bring an NHL team back to the northern part of the province.
For the time being, the NHL says
its intensions are to stick with its current core. It has no plans
to expand, which given the current economic state is a good thing.
Relocation isn't on the agenda either, and that's when many people
start to become concerned.
Florida and Atlanta are drawing
horrible crowds, and moving those teams to new, fresh and better
markets could only help the league.
NHL executives will argue that they
gave cities like Buffalo the opportunities to stick through the
rough patches and reclaim their stability in the league. That's
great. The team got better, and that might have something to do with
the fact that they avoided bankruptcy and turned around. Want to
know the other factor? Buffalo's filled with hockey fans. Florida
and Atlanta aren't.
Many people are starting to get
annoyed at the same old saying; it's time for the NHL to admit its
mistakes and move on.
Well, it's true. They have Florida
a shot, and they never got with the program. Miami isn't a sports
town. Unless you're the Dolphins, nobody really cares. Heck, when
the Heat and Marlins stink, nobody gives them the time of day
either. It's the overall market. Nobody is going to scream at Gary
Bettman for trying to keep a team in South Florida, but enough is
enough and it's time to move on. There are tones of hockey fans in
Tampa, so 1 out of 2 in the same State ain't bad.
For now, it's looking like Kansas
City and Southern Ontario are next on the list for a team. KC has
the arena, Kitchener has the money (I'm looking at you, Jim) and
fans. Las Vegas is definitely another option, with Winnipeg and
Quebec in the background.
With the right money, group and
facilities, it's not hard to believe we'll see another Nordiques
team in the net 5-10 years. It's going to take some time, but
they're finally on the right track. And quite frankly, I hope they
get their wish.
is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the
Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a
contributing writer for NBCSports.com and MSNBC.