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NHL

NHL Rumors: Is There Anything Wrong with Quebec City as an NHL Town?

English-speaking hockey fans would love the Chateau Frontenac, but only if Quebec City embraces them. Photo by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons

With all the commotion about Phoenix possibly losing their team, the call has come out once again for towns that “deserve” an NHL team. I put that word in quotation marks because no city is entitled to a team, no matter what fans say. A city should earn a team based on, among other factors, economic viability. Geography is also important, but not in terms of hockey belonging or not belonging in a city/region.

Of the cities tossed into the hat of nominees for the next NHL city, Quebec City comes up most often. And why shouldn’t it? It was the home of the Nordiques from 1972 to 1995. It saw the likes of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg grace its streets. It had a great rivalry with Montreal as the top NHL city in the province. But financial problems sent the Nordiques to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche,and Quebec City has been pining for a team ever since.

Let’s say that a team does come back to Ville de Québec, with sound finances and whatnot. “Great!” says the average Quebec City inhabitant who loves hockey. “Let’s get everything ready and say bienvenue to the new team!” Um, hold up, Monsieur Poutine, there’s something you need to fix first. That would be the fact that your city is, how can I put this politely, too French.

There are exactly two English-language radio stations in Quebec City: one is an English version of a French-language music station while the other is a CBC news/talk station. There is one English-language newspaper, which is published weekly. Aside from the financial situation, this was a reason why the Nordiques foundered. In a league where 2/3 of the teams are located in the United States, the Quebec City market is too Francophone and can’t accommodate English-speaking fans (Eric Lindros refused to sign with the Nordiques for that reason).

In this century, with the Internet, Center Ice and Gamecenter Live, any team that sets up shop there is sure to have Anglophones as fans and the team cannot afford to isolate them. Look at the Montreal Canadiens, who’ve embraced both sides and conduct themselves in a bilingual way on their website and Twitter feed. It’s not hurting them to reach out to the fans who don’t have a grasp of French. If Quebec City really wants to have an NHL team again, they’ll have to embrace English-speaking fans. Otherwise, they’ll be forever alone and still pining.