The dream of reviving the Quebec Nordiques seems slim at this point.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met Thursday with Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard to discuss the possibility of bringing an NHL franchise to Quebec. While both sides called the meeting « cordial, » Bettman said there was no possibility of the league returning to Quebec.
“We explained that while we appreciated and flattered the interest expressed, unfortunately we were not aware of any opportunities that could meet that interest at this time,” Bettman said.
« We appreciate that the lines of communication between the parties have been refreshed and we have agreed to remain in contact with each other as circumstances warrant. »
The Nordiques joined the NHL in 1979 as part of the WHA’s four-team merger, along with the Hartford Whalers, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets.
In 1995, the weak Canadian dollar caused the Nordiques to pack up and move to Colorado to become the Avalanche. The Avs won the Stanley Cup in their first season in Colorado, led by former Montreal Canadiens star Patrick Roy.
Quebec has been courting a new NHL franchise for years, as a local grassroots movement has fans showing up to games of teams with attendance issues wearing Nordiques gear. The provincial government also helped fund the construction of a new NHL-ready facility, the Videotron Centre, which opened in 2015.
Despite the efforts of Quebec, the NHL has continued to decline the return of the Nordiques. The league postponed Quebec’s bid for an expansion squad to 2016, just as the league announced its expansion to Las Vegas.
Given that the NHL just welcomed its 32nd team to the league, the Seattle Kraken, it’s hard to imagine the league looking to grow. Having 32 teams gives the NHL symmetry, with even 16 teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences as well as eight teams in each division.
If Quebec were to get a team, it would likely have to come through a relocation, much like it did in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers packed up and moved to Winnipeg to create the Jets’ second go-around.
The natural assumption is that Quebec was trying to get the struggling Arizona Coyotes to move north. The Coyotes are homeless for the 2022-23 season as the city of Glendale pulls out of the joint lease agreement for the Gila River Arena and the organization’s plans to build a new facility in downtown Tempe are to the point of death.
There have been rumors that the Coyotes will be for sale with the intention of moving them to Houston, but the organization has said that is not the case.