Sorry, Quebec City: Loonie, geography blamed for NHL team deferral
The National Hockey League is expanding to Las Vegas with its 31st team, dashing hopes of Quebec City hockey fans waiting to resurrect the beloved Nordiques.
The struggling loonie is partly to blame, says NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, for the decision to defer Quebec City’s application.
“Significantly, the fluctuation of the Canadian dollar throughout the process, including its decline to a low of 68 cents earlier this year was a factor,” Bettman said at a press conference Wednesday.
“Unfortunately the state and volatility of the Canadian dollar undermined the achievement of that objective relative to the Quebec City bid.”
The Las Vegas team’s owner will pay an expansion fee of $500 million USD, or $640 million CAD at Wednesday’s rate. The NHL board of governors’ decision to expand the league to Las Vegas was unanimous.
Another factor Bettman said “undermined” Quebec City’s bid is the “geographic imbalance” it would pose, with 16 teams already in the league’s Eastern Conference versus 14 (now 15) in the Western Conference.
The NHL commissioner said his league was also concerned about diluting the talent pool by adding a 32nd roster to the mix.
The board concluded that “based on the process that will be used for stocking rosters, the best interest of the league and all teams would be served by limiting the number of incoming clubs to one at this juncture.”
Bettman called Quebecor, which officially submitted the bid to return the team to Quebec City, an “outstanding” league partner. He said there’s “no doubt” there is a passionate fan base in city, or of the suitability of the brand new, 18,259-seat Videotron Centre to host an NHL team.
“The decision to defer however, was based on elements over which the Quebec City group had no control whatsoever.”
Quebecor CEO Pierre Dion said they have built a strong relationship over the years with the NHL, adding the discussion is not over.
“Bring the Nordiques back to Quebec City remains a priority for Quebecor,” said Dion. “As you all know, we love the game, we will continue to work with determination to achieve this goal.”
“People in Quebec City are still very passionate about the Nordiques. Even though the team left more than 20 years ago, the Nordiques remain very much part of their daily discussions and hopes.”
The Nordiques franchise moved south and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. Quebec City remains without a major professional sports team.
The new Las Vegas team has a year to get things organized before beginning play in the 2017-2018 season.
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.