Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Hockey

Above the 49: Seattle emergence a blow to Quebec City's hopes

The Pacific Northwest has been abuzz lately with speculation the Coyotes may soon be calling the Emerald City home, but if the Coyotes end up settling in Seattle, you'd have wonder if and when Quebec City will get its long-awaited shot at an NHL team again.

The capital of Quebec has been without an NHL franchise since the 1995, when the Nordiques bolted for more lucrative pastures in Denver.

But with the Canadian economy much stronger now than it was back in the 1990s, Quebec City has been pushed to the forefront of possible landing destinations for an NHL franchise.

Quebec has been bandied about so much that it could be considered surprising it wasn't at the top of the list of destinations for the Coyotes should that team not be able to come to an agreement with the city of Glendale, Ariz., for a new arena lease before the stated deadline of June 25.

The NHL may be hush about its interest in potentially returning to the capital of Quebec, but it's clear there is quite a bit of interest in Quebec City.

The city has hosted a number of NHL exhibition games since the departure of the Nordiques, including during the 2011 preseason when the Montreal Canadiens, once a fierce rival of the Nordiques, squared off against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Quebec City was to have hosted a preseason game again during the 2012 pre- season between the Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes, but those plans were wiped out by the NHL Lockout.

When it became clear the Thrashers were on their way out of Atlanta, Quebec City was again near the top of the list of potential landing spots before the team ultimately found its way back to Winnipeg to become the reincarnated Jets.

But it has to be disheartening for the diehards in Quebec City to learn that even with the seemingly imminent relocation of the Coyotes their city won't be in the running as a potential landing spot despite the fact that, unlike in Seattle, Quebec City has already begun construction on a new facility that is being built specifically with NHL hockey in mind.

Quebec City's arena project is not only scheduled to be completed in 2015, but it also has a much more capable temporary venue in the Pepsi Coliseum to house an NHL team now as opposed to Seattle's KeyArena, which is not a hockey- specific venue and would have a number of sight line issues as well as limited seating.

However, it appears as if it's Seattle or bust for the Coyotes franchise if it leaves the Grand Canyon State.

There are, of course, a number of potential reasons for why the NHL won't be interested in moving the Coyotes to Quebec City or any city in the East.

The league is set to debut newly realigned divisions for the 2013-14 season and it makes much more sense to leave the Coyotes playing with teams primarily in the same time zone as they are as opposed to forcing a potential Quebec City club to play in the wrong conference like the Winnipeg Jets were forced to do for the past two campaigns.

It should be noted that Seattle, like Quebec, also has been pursuing an NHL club for quite some time dating back the last two decades.

Still, the fact that Seattle is the frontrunner to land the next NHL franchise has to feel like a punch to the gut of fans in Quebec City who have long been pining for the return of the NHL. In Seattle, the pining has been reserved exclusively for the NBA and the SuperSonics, who left after the 2007-08 season for Oklahoma City.

If the Coyotes land in Seattle, it may be a long wait before Quebec City get its chance to secure a team despite the new arena. If the Coyotes were to move, it would mean two NHL franchises in the last three years have been forced to relocate, something the league views as a black mark even if the end result turns out to be positive as it seems to be in the case of Winnipeg.

You would have to think the league would do all that it can to try to prevent having this situation repeat itself again at least in the near future.

There is always the possibility the league could go down the expansion route, but, given the number of teams still facing financial difficulties at this time, that doesn't seem like it's at the top of its to-do list.

Quebec City may be prime destination for an NHL team to land in at some point in the future, but, fair or not, it seems like its wait is going to be longer than it would have liked.