What About Quebec?

While the NHL world seems focused on moving a team – any team – to Winnipeg, we thought we’d take a moment to remember the other Canadian city that lost an NHL franchise in the 90s. Fans of the Quebec Nordiques have been pretty vocal over the last year in their attempts to bring a hockey team back to Quebec City.

A group called “Nordiques Nation” decided to ‘invade’ a game between the Atlanta Thrashers and New York Islanders in Long Island on December 11th to show their support for a Quebec hockey team. They did the same thing during an April 10th game in New Jersey against the Bruins.

Nordiques fans have been very loud about supporting their relocated team over the past season, largely due to the Nordiques Nation website. The site, in French, has organized and participated in a number of events in support of bringing an NHL team to Quebec City including “La Marche Bleu,” (The Blue March) which organized Nordiques fans on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City:

There have even been attempts to build an NHL-sized arena that would house a new Quebec team. However, if the Coyotes stay in Phoenix and the Thrashers either remain in Atlanta or move to Winnipeg, what team would be coming to Quebec City? Some fans, and the Le Soleil newspaper in Quebec, have now set their sights on the Florida Panthers.

And, while we’re at it, what about Kansas City?

While Kansas City may not have the desperate and dedicated fanbase that Quebec City and Winnipeg do, it does have a beautiful, NHL-ready arena that does not currently have an NHL team or an NBA team as an anchor tenant. The Sprint Center could really use one of those.

A Google Translation of the Le Soleil article tells us that “according to the professor specializing in sports marketing from Laval University André Richelieu, several NHL teams are subject to change of address within a horizon of between three and five years.”

It lists the Coyotes, Blue Jackets and Panthers as teams that could possibly move at some point.

It looks like NHL relocation stories will be news for a while…

Comments (5)

  1. Quebec has threefold problems: it’s an even smaller market than Winnipeg, there’s no even halfway competent arena (Winnipeg’s may be small, but at least it isn’t a $400 million pipe dream), and there’s less corporate support. Its big advantage is that it’s reasonably possible that players might want to play there, unlike all the “divorce rate amongst Thrashers players up 100%” jokes we’ve been making for the last couple of weeks. Although the language issue is going to be even more prevalent there given the deep-rooted connection the Nords always had with Quebec Nationalism.

    The Jackets will be fine if they simply manage to put together even COMPETENT management. It’s a market with a good arena that’s generally starved for sports after Ohio State football ends. And the NHL needs a presence in Ohio, a northern state that boasts five other teams in the major leagues. It’s just that their former GM is barely competent as a radio host, let alone running a major league franchise.

    The worst thing about all the relocation stories is all the incompetent reporting. Not to heap on Damien Cox (lord knows we do it enough during the regular season when he’s merely trying to write about hockey rather than business issues), but he listed Minnesota as a “failed” franchise. You know, the team that’s had about two non-sold-out games in its history.

    I would’ve loved to see the wacky stories written about the 67 expansion, since pretty much every one of those teams was life-and-death to survive for at least 10-15 years as well (even the Pens and Flyers, both of which we now consider model franchises). Not every expansion franchise is going to be a Minnesota.

    That being said, Florida shows all the same signs as Phoenix’s issues, specifically moving to an arena out in the ‘burbs – with even less reason than the Coyotes, who at least could claim that their original arena was horrible for hockey.

  2. Oh, and one other thing: I still kind of have my doubts about Winnipeg being able to generate enough revenues to support a $50 million payroll. They’ll lose LESS money than Atlanta, but I don’t think they’re going to be profitable simply because the arena’s about 3,000 seats smaller average. That’s nearly $7 million in gate receipts that simply won’t ever exist in the city, assuming an average ticket price of $60.

    (Or, to put it another way, they can only generate about $38 million in gross gate revenues. Even assuming a wildly generous local TV deal and very good concession numbers, I’m not sure if the numbers will work as the NHL formula is generally that the extraneous revenues go to overhead and seat revenues go to payroll. And I have no idea what their lease is going to look like – doubt it’ll be a sweetheart deal like a lot of the US teams have.)

    Note – I used Edmonton as the comparable average ticket price. Using Ottawa, you’re down to $33 million in gross seat revenues.

  3. Stephen, I don’t entirely agree with some of your points:

    1) The city of Winnipeg may be larger than Quebec City, but when including the metro area, Quebec has a population of 715k compared to Winnipeg’s 695k (based on 2006 census). So Quebec if anything has a slightly larger market.

    2) Quebec got a big boost when the CEO of Quebecor said he as in. The Peladeau family may not be worth as much as True North, but still has plenty of resources in addition to the fact that local officials are pushing as hard as possible to get a team back.

    3) Even if Quebec City has less corporate support (per below, 17 major corporations as compared to Winnpeg’s 30), Quebec does not have the competition of having another major sports team in the city (Winnipeg’s CFL team).

    4) While the stadium does not exist, they understand that without a new arena any talk of a team back in Quebec is not going to happen. If the 18k arena if indeed built in Quebec, it would likely fall right in the average range of NHL arenas in terms of capacity. Winnipeg I believe also understands that they will have to add 2-3k new seats over the years.

    All in all, reports by numerous reporters/studies show that they believe both cities could support an NHL team. They may not be as profitable as the Toronto’s, New York’s or Philadelhia’s out there, but the support and demand is there.

  4. Stephen, let me enlighten you about the realities of Winnipeg. First, you said you were unsure of what the lease would be. What lease? True North owns the building. They do not need to lease to a team they would own while they control the building as well. Second, you believe they will not be able to pay a 50 million dollar payroll with only 15000 seats. Here is where you are badly mistaken. The arena would sell out easily for the first 3 seasons no questions asked. If you do not believe that, you are ignorant of the hockey culture in Winnipeg, the demand, and the fact that no other NHL team is within 8 hours of travel (Minnesota). People will come from far and wide to see the new ‘Jets’. Next, although 15000 plus suites is not enough to cover costs, you are forgetting 3 very important factors. 1) corporate support. The list of companies lining up to sponsor and buy suites is adding up by the minute. 2) juicy local TV deals. For the tens of thousands that either can’t get tickets (b.c its sold out) or can’t afford tickets, an obvious alternative is watching the game on television. 3) most importantly! The mts centre is one of the busiest arenas in North America, and the world! The NHL will only be in the arena roughlt 55 nights a year. This leaves Chipman and co. 310 days to have all of the great events and concerts they’ve been hosting since they built the place. These added revenues will not only offset potential losses of an NHL team, they will surely guarantee the team the ability to turn a profit year after year.

  5. I think the Coyotes won’t last the year. They might get a season ticket boost but they aren’t in a good position for the draft and nobody want to be traded to a team where a tank of gas gets you ticket to the game. The team still doesn’t have an owner and the city won’t keep propping them up for long. I think Kansas gets this one though.

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