Quebec City’s expansion hopes take a hit

One man's words put a damper on a potential return the Quebec City for the NHL


(Photo credit: The Photographer)

Never the bride

It’s hard to imagine that one man’s words could dampen the hopes of hundreds of thousands of people. But when that one man is Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. 

“Quebec is challenged,” Jacobs said this week to the media. “OK, I’m going to put it nicely. They’re challenged. Look at the income base and the population base and there probably isn’t a smaller market, so they’re going to really have to distinguish themselves in some other way, I would think.”

The NHL has been flirting with the idea of expanding back into Quebec City for years now. And while the city is ready to have an NHL team of its own again — they even have a state-of-the-art arena — the league seems to be wishy-washy every time it comes up for discussion. Every time Quebec was up for discussion, a new reason would be given why the league won’t expand into the city. With the emergence of cities like Las Vegas and Seattle, it seems even more unlikely that the NHL will ever end up back in the capital of Quebec.

Granted, people believed the same thing about the city of Winnipeg. Which happens to be a smaller market than that of Quebec City. 

When the Atlanta Thrashers were in complete turmoil in 2011, True North Sports & Entertainment swooped in to take over the team and move them to Winnipeg. Despite having the smallest arena in the NHL — seating only 15,321 fans for hockey games — the return to central Canada can only be viewed as a success for the league. Games are sold out, people are tuning in, and the team has started to become a success on the ice. 

The difference is, Winnipeg wasn’t looking to join via expansion. True North waited until the perfect moment to come in and move a failing organization. It’s a route that Quebec City may have to hope for if they ever want a hometown team to root for again.

Many believed the Carolina Hurricanes might have been that team. But with new ownership committed to the region that seems to be off the table. The Arizona Coyotes are constantly talked about when it comes to relocation, but the NHL seems determined to wait until the very last minute to decide on the future of the franchise. Even if the league decides to move the team out of Arizona, it’s far more likely that a city like Houston gets the team as opposed to Quebec.

What else does that leave? Calgary? Ottawa? 

Organization’s situations change yearly, and it’s quite possible that another team falls into bad enough trouble that Quebec could come in to “save the day” a la Winnipeg. But with the NHL more keen on trying new, bigger markets going forward to grow the game, Quebec seems more likely to remain a bargaining chip than a serious candidate.

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Michael Straw

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Michael is a long-time journalist who has covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as  WGR 550-Buffalo, Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.

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