Tomorrow, Saturday December 11, 2010, more than 1,100 hockey fans will invade Nassau Coliseum for the match-up between the surging Atlanta Thrashers and the lowly New York Islanders in Long Island. The raucous fans are taking chartered buses from Quebec City down to New York to send a message to the rest of the NHL and its commissioner Gary Bettman.
The fans taking the trip to the game, most of whom wearing the blue sweaters of the Nordiques, will be sitting in two large groups behind each net. They will stay in six different hotels in New Jersey and Long Island.
The Islanders and the Thrashers have well-known attendance and financial problems. The Islanders, who own the NHL’s worst record after losing 5-2 to the hands of the Boston Bruins, are ranked 29th in attendance with an average of 10,770 fans per home game; on the other side, the Thrashers are ranked 28th with an average of 11,789 fans, despite having a winning record and young star players like Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Ondrej Pavelec.
Jerome Landry, Vincent Cauchon and Denis Gravel from the Quebec City radio station Choi Radio X founded the Nordiques Nation earlier this fall in an attempt to gauge the public interest for the return on a NHL franchise to Quebec City.
On Oct. 2, Nordiques Nation, which says it has more than 70,000 members, took part in the Blue March (La Marche Bleue), organized by a Levis resident named Mario Roy, to mobilize support for the Nordiques’ return. It drew between 75,000 and 100,000 fans and 16 former Nordiques participated in the event such as the three Stastny brothers (Anton, Peter & Marian), Michel Goulet, Stephane Fiset, and Mario Marois.
“Quebec City has what most cities don’t: extraordinary support from the fans, the excitement, the atmosphere,” the former Nordiques star Peter Stastny told the crowd.
Quebec City boasts some of the most die-hard hockey fans in North America, as shown by the best attendance in the CHL. The Quebec Remparts, playing in the old Colisee and coached by three-time Stanley Cup winner, Patrick Roy, draw more than 10,000 fans on average to their home games; almost as much as the Phoenix Coyotes… Every time the Montreal Canadiens play an exhibition game in Quebec City, they sell out even if don’t dress all of their NHL players.
The Nordiques moved from Quebec to Denver in 1995 and became the Colorado Avalanche. But the mayor of Quebec, Régis Labeaume, is pushing to build a $400 million arena to attract an NHL team back. The provincial government led by Jean Charest (who is in the middle of a corruption scandal) has pledged 45 percent of construction costs, but the Conservative-controlled federal government led by Stephen Harper has yet to commit any public financing to the project. Labeaume is also looking for private partners for the construction of the new building, but no business has shown an interest in investing in the building.
Despite the financial problems of the Thrashers and other teams like the Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars, the NHL has done everything possible to prevent any franchise from moving over the last decade, just ask Jim Balsillie.
The Coyotes’ bankruptcy and subsequent trusteeship by the NHL is a blatant example of Bettman’s failure in some NHL cities, but his vanity is so overwhelming it is highly unlikely we’ll see any team move as long as he is the NHL commissioner. He is reportedly communicating once in a while with Mayor Labeaume about the situation in Quebec City, but this courtesy is more than likely smoke to the eye of the believer…
As a Quebec City resident and an avid hockey fan, I would obviously welcome the return of an NHL franchise in my hometown, but I have to be realistic and don’t have any false hopes as long as a new arena is not built and commissioner Bettman is in control of the league.
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Source : NY Times
About the Author: Working as a freelance sports writer and translator, Fred, 33, graduated from Laval University in Quebec City, earning a bachelor of translation in 2002. An avid fan of the Northeast division teams, he's also a long time fan of the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Fred also speaks fluently French and Spanish. http://twitter.com/FredPoulin98 www.traductions-quebec.com