Battle of Quebec Nearing A Return

On August 21st, Quebecor Inc. – the potential ownership group intending to bring a National Hockey League franchise back to Quebec City was invited to Phase III of the expansion process along with Las Vegas. According to Yahoo!, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says that the third phase is “just the next phase of due diligence and document submission”.

quebecorThe National Hockey League has made it clear that any awarded cities/ownership groups will begin play no earlier than the 2017-18 season. Tweeted by David Pagnotta, the entire “phase” process will conclude on September 4th – in less than two weeks.

The prospective ownership group, Quebecor Inc., was founded in 1965 and is currently headquartered in Montreal. Quebecor is a communications company which operates various subsidiaries including TVA Sports, Videotron, and more. Pierre Karl Péladeau, who is the current leader of the sovereignist provincial political party the Parti Québécois is the former Chairman and CEO of the company.

The former Quebec Nordiques played out of the Colisée Pepsi (formerly Colisée de Québec) at the time. The arena was opened in December of 1949, meaning if the NHL were to expand back into Quebec City, they would need a new home to play in. In the fall of 2012, ground broke to build a brand new professional hockey-sized multi-purpose arena in Quebec City as a potential NHL arena and Winter Olympic bid. The Videotron Centre, which is set to open this fall to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Quebec Remparts, has a capacity of 18,259. The $370-million venue is owned by the city and operated by Quebecor Media Inc., who named the building after their cable company Videotron GP.

Photo: thetelecomblog.com

Photo: thetelecomblog.com

With Quebecor having advanced to Phase III, Habs fans are only another step closer to re-igniting a rivalry with a city which once hosted a hated provincial rival in the Nordiques. This rivalry lasted for fifteen seasons from 1979-80 when the Quebec Nordiques made the move from the World Hockey Association to the NHL, until the conclusion of the 1994-95 season when they packed their bags for Denver. The two sides met five times in the playoffs, with the first meeting being in 1982 after the Canadiens were moved to the Adams division and joined the Nordiques. 251 penalty minutes were allocated in the fourth game of the series alone – a series in which the Nordiques would unfortunately come out on top. The Battle of Quebec would become a series in the 1984 playoffs, most notably known for the “Good Friday Massacre”. Bench clearing brawls at the end of the second period and beginning of the third period lead to 10 ejections and 252 penalty minutes handed out for the altercations. The Habs, who were trailing 1-0 at the time would rally back with five 3rd period goals to win the game 5-3.

Quotes on the Battle of Quebec

Montreal has always been the city, and Quebec City the village. Quebec City has always had a relationship of frustration with Montreal. This rivalry is the first time that Montreal and Quebec City can compete head to head in one event.” – Bernard Brisset / former Quebec Nordiques Director of Communications – via John Lowe

There’s no doubt that hockey is a religion in Quebec more than anywhere else in North America. Priests in Quebec will use hockey in their sermons to illustrate their points.” – Jean Perron / 16th Head Coach of the Montreal Canadiens – via John Lowe

A Nordiques-Canadiens confrontation is much more than a simple hockey game. It is a confrontation that can serve whatever purpose fans want it to serve – ideological, political or just plain territorial supremacy.” – The Windsor Star / April 10th, 1984

All this took place during a charged era in Quebec culture and politics, when the struggle over Quebecois separatism permeated everything, even hockey, with the Nords supposedly representing the indépendantistes and the Habs, supposedly, accommodationism.” – The New York Times / March 20th, 2008

During the 1994-95 season, the financial struggles of the Quebec Nordiques continued to grow. It was a shortened season due to the lockout, but a 30-13-5 record was more than enough to give the Nordiques the Northeast Division title heading into the postseason. In the first round, the #1 seed Nordiques was upset in 6 games by the eighth-ranked New York Rangers who went on to be swept in the next round. Rising player salaries and a weak Canadian dollar contributed to the fall of not only the Nordiques, but the Winnipeg Jets as well.

Marcel Aubut, who was the former CEO and President of the team at the time applied to the Province of Quebec for a bailout. The provincial government rejected the request and that would prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the Nordiques. In May of 1995, the franchise was sold to the owners of the Denver Nuggets (NBA), who moved the team to the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado where they would win a Stanley Cup in their inaugural season.

37 days after the announcement of the sale to COMSAT Entertainment Group, over 12,000 season ticket packages were sold to hockey fans in Colorado. On July 1st, 1995, the sale became official and the Battle of Quebec had officially been no more. After considering team names such as the Extreme, Black Bears, and Blizzards – the group decided on Avalanche.

Most hockey fans, whether they are Habs fans, former Nordiques fans, or supporters of anyone else will agree that the Battle of Quebec was one of the most, if not the most exciting rivalry in hockey history. With Quebec City and Las Vegas being invited to Phase III of the NHL expansion process which would see the league expand to 32 teams – we are only years away to seeing the rivalry possibly reignite all over again.

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