Return of the NHL in Quebec City

Last Monday, I went to the Colisee Pepsi to take in a game from the IIHF World Championships, between Belarus and Denmark. The game was very boring, except for the last 10 minutes of the third period, when Belarus tied the game, then took the lead, only to see it disappear with under a minute to go in the game. They would go on to lose 3-2 in overtime.

That leads me to the possibility of the National Hockey League returning to the city that was once the host of the Nordiques, moving a year before they were finally good enough to win the Stanley Cup.

What a blow that was for the faithful who followed every game of the storied franchise since its inception in the league in 1979.

In a perfect world, I would strongly support and even be active in a movement to bring back a club in Quebec City, but too many questions and obstacles remain. Among them, here are the ones that have me scratching my head as to whether we are truly ready for it to become reality:

New Arena

When I entered the Colisee this week, I was surprised at how clean the place was and also how the city has improved the main scoreboard at the centre of the ice. It is now used for replays, animation to entertain the crowd and even provide the feed of the game during the action on the ice.

Also, the arena now has electronic billboards over all the exits at the first level, providing another means for advertisers to showcase their products, but was also used to give indications to fans ("make the waves", "make some noise", "clap your hands", etc).

This led me to question the relevance of spending upwards of $300 M to build a new arena, when we have one sitting right there, doing nothing.

Some will point out that luxury boxes need to be added in order for an NHL club to remain financially competitive and also the lack of modern offerings for modern fans, but my quick answer to them is: "if we were able to add the upper level (more than 5,000 new seats) to this building in 1980, I'm sure we could find a way to build more luxury boxes and make wide-ranging renovations.

This is an over-simplified take on the issue, but who can invest the money into a new home for a hockey club? This leads me to my next point...

Investors

This is where the root of the problem lies: investors are lacking in the Quebec region. Bettman even broached the subject last week when he visited the international tournament, citing this fact (among others) has a major factor in the city not being considered for a new team in the league.

Let's be honest here; which company in Quebec City has the money to build an arena and bring a hockey club here? Exactly.

The fortified city is mainly driven by state employees and companies that have the ressources to oversee such a large project are pretty much inexistent.

The usual name that usually come up (Tanguay, Pepsi - Alex Coulombe-, etc) have already stated that they are not interested. If this was a viable endeavor, don't you think they would jump on the occasion to make some money and improve their profiles in the city with all the fans and interest it would arouse? Exactly.

 

I'm really not trying to be a pessimist on this topic, but it's frustrating to see all these people proposing ideas, but never showing what the league wants: money.

Vision Quebec came out yesterday with an idea to use the state employees' pension money to support the project, citing the Toronto Maple Leafs as an example of what it could look like if it came to fruition. But something needs to be told here: they are comparing the richest team (according to the latest Forbes valuations) to a team that exists only in spirits and that will play in a city that has eight times fewer citizens. On top of that, the Maple Leafs have a rich tradition that can now count on sold out crowds, night after night.

Until someone shows the money, all these nice speech should be taken with a grain of salt. I don't pretend to know the answers and the two problems presented are only a few that need to be resolved, but please keep in mind that a city like Winnipeg has already built a brand new arena to accomodate a new NHL club, but the league still refuses to grant a franchise anyway.

Here's a CBC report (YouTube) that aired before both teams departed for the United States. 

 

Now, what do YOU think?