Writer’s Note: JOCELYN THIBAULT!
Quebec City has received an immense amount of pity for the last 18 months. The Remparts, under Patrick Roy, have garnered their fair share of fame but the scale of adoration isn’t quite the same. Across the country, when the Jets landed back in Winnipeg, the question became concerned with when the Nordiques would make their triumphant return. Their fans have been popping up all over the NHL — the Nassau Coliseum is likely sick of seeing them — but the message has been sent through loud and clear.
They would like NHL hockey back in La Belle Province.
The wheels have been set in motion to get Quebec its stadium to house what now appears to be a forthcoming NHL team. For the pricetag of $400 million the town will get a new home to stow away their seemingly inevitable replacement. 2015 has become the target date for a reality to emerge from what was, not long ago, a dream. The thought that the Nordiques could one day return seemed rather impossible, but the resurrection of the Jets proved that had no bearing in fact. Both towns saw non-NHL teams flourish in the absence of a top flight squad, and both towns have come to earn their shot.
The CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh has apparently provided the blueprint for the impending crown jewel of Quebec City’s hockey community. In a short video released by the committee behind its development, the concepts for this Canadian edition of the CONSOL became clearer and, on the surface, it certainly appears more than adequate for the NHL’s purposes.
Take a look.
The Colisee, former home of the Nordiques, is rather dated and antiquated by NHL standards. However, given that it has been consistently retrofitted with modern bells and whistles to serve the needs of the Quebec League’s Remparts, it stands to reason that it could shoulder the burden of a team in a place holder capacity. The real key to this Quebec re-birth, however, is this new arena.
If you’re looking for a potential winner to this NHL lockout, look no further than the city of Quebec. Many of you will recall that as we neared the end of the 2011-12 season, speculation surfaced that Quebec City could be forced to take on a franchise sooner than it ought to. Financial turmoil in some markets could be accelerating the issue. While the guaranteed income from a fresh Canadian market would inject some life into the league, the environment wouldn’t be hospitable enough to hold up to the league’s standards. You don’t want to set a market up to fail twice. (*cough* Atlanta *cough*)
Given that the league and PA have found a way to begin fighting about hotel rooms, you know it’s serious business. As serious as the feeling that comes over you when someone flips on a black light in the Holiday Inn room you’ve just rented. Things can be rather solemn.
In the case of Quebec City, the NHL has inadvertently given the city an opportunity to ready itself for the league’s return. By taking time away from games played, the NHL is potentially crippling current franchises by diminishing the opportunities to generate revenue, while also allowing Quebec City to get its facilities in order. If a city anywhere was hungry for top flight pro hockey to return to their town, a lockout is an excellent way to facilitate it.
A poem by Robert Herrick — recently made popular again by HBO’s ‘The Newsroom’ after inspiring plenty in the Robin Williams flick ‘Dead Poets Society’ — commands the reader from the first line to “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Translation: Carpe Diem. Seize the Day. And it’s time for towns like Quebec City, Hartford, Seattle, etc. to do just that and capitalize on a glorious opportunity while so many twiddle their thumbs.
In 1994, many will recall that the season did come back partially intact. The NHL played a 48 game season and the world didn’t combust, much like it didn’t in 2004, and much like it won’t this year contrary to what some campaigns by individuals or companies would have you believe about this current stoppage. What the 1994 lockout did spur in lieu of a fiery apocalypse was a slew of relocation.
Three teams moved in the aftermath and each of them have been mentioned above. The Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche. The Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes. The Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes. While not all of these moves were of equal necessity, the fact is the lockout made their existence untenable as it stood and, as I see it, given that the only casualty of the last lockout was the Atlanta Thrashers, we’re due for another slew of movement.
We may be able to say that there are no winners during an NHL lockout, and that is correct insofar as we limit our gaze to the NHL community as it stands. When we expand beyond that, however, we see that this is a golden opportunity for places who have had teams or would like them to prepare themselves for an opportunity.
Quebec City is on-deck. Who follows that up remains to be seen, but they’d be foolish to waste their time.
In the words of Mr. Herrick, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, / Old Time is still a-flying: / And this same flower that smiles to-day / To-morrow will be dying.”