QUEBEC CITY – Hopeful enthusiasm has gripped Quebec City.
Moments after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced plans to expand the league, Quebecor, the company managing the city’s brand new amphitheatre, released this statement:
“Quebecor plans to participate in the process announced by the NHL and submit its candidacy in order to bring the Nordiques back to Quebec City.
“Quebecor has consistently stated that its objective is to establish an NHL franchise in Quebec City and it intends to make every effort to achieve that goal.”
Bettman was careful not to make any promises, but seemed to point to Las Vegas as a possibility for a new franchise.
The city of Seattle is also considered to be in the running.
It didn’t take long for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to jump into the debate.
“There is no better place for an expansion team in the national hockey league than this city – Quebec – which is a great hockey centre,” Harper told reporters on Thursday.
When asked if Markham, Ont. could take part in the dream too, Harper responded: “Ontario already has two teams. We need two teams in Quebec.”
A few steps away, Quebec City mayor Régis Labeaume was beaming.
“We’re happy we built the amphitheatre. This morning, I was just thinking what would we be feeling if we hadn’t built it? We would have felt very cheap,” he said.
“Now we have the building, we know we have a chance and we’ll see. We’ll let Quebecor people work on that.”
Quebecor will be the manager of the soon-to-be-opened Videotron Centre for the next 25 years.
The state-of-the-art facility in Quebec City, which seats 18,259 for hockey, is set to officially open in September 2015.
It was designed to meet NHL standards.
The NHL estimated the cost of a new franchise at around $500 million (US).
The new team – or teams – would begin playing in 2017-2018.