Everybody makes mistakes that is a fact of life, nobody's perfect. However, acknowledging our mistakes and fixing them can get us closer to perfection. Imagine that you made a big (well two big mistakes) mistake some 15 years ago and that everywhere you went, people were asking you about that mistake, how would you feel? How would you feel if 60,000 people were asking you at the same time? Hard to imagine isn't it? To get the answer we'd have to ask NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Last Saturday, on the 2nd October 2010, 60,000 hockey fans gathered on the Plains of Abraham to demand the return of a NHL team in Québec City. When the Nordiques left town in 1995, thousands of hearts were broken and it seems time couldn't mend those. 15 years on, Mario Roy a citizen of Lévis (a town on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River) tried to organize a public demonstration to support Québec City's mayor's (Régis Labeaume) project for the construction of a multifunctional arena which could host international events (such as the Olympics) but also be the new home of an NHL franchise. His idea was simple, let's invade the Battlefield Park and show the world that Québec wants its Nordiques back! How you say? Well, he created a Facebook page to get the word out and tell the “Nordiques Nation” that on 2nd October 2010, everyone was expected to dress in the Nordiques' blue and march together to get their team back. Then, he got in touch with the mayor himself and from then on a gigantic marketing campaign started with radio and television coverage “la Marche Bleue” was the talk of the town. Soon enough, the provincial government pledged 45% of the cost of the new arena and now, all eyes are on the federal government to see if they too will agree to help Québec in its quest for a new arena. To date, they have yet to commit but the impressive gathering of 60,000 Quebecers on the Plains of Abraham made it loud and clear for them: Québec wants an arena. With the city pledging to cover the remaining 10% should the Canadian government invest, the pressure is mounting on Stephen Harper's troops.
Bettman has repeatedly said that the return of the NHL in Québec starts with the construction of a new state of the art arena. The unfitness of the Québec Colisée having been one of the main reasons behind the departure of the Nordqiues. Such a small arena was not capable of generating the profits necessary to cover the operation of an NHL outfit and in spite of Marcel Aubut's best endeavour; he had to resign himself to sell the Nordiques. In 1995, an investors group from Denver Colorado took over the team. What happened next is forever burnt in the Nordiques' fans memories, the newly branded Colorado Avalanche went on to win the Stanley Cup in its first year in Denver and Québec felt cheated. 15 years later though, it looks like Québec may very well get its wish of a new arena and will Bettman be able to ignore the demands of the blue masses? He would be well advised to remember how successful the Montreal Canadiens are and to consider that perhaps, taking hockey to non traditional markets was not a good idea...The former Winnipeg Jets (now the Phoenix Coyotes) are drying up in the Arizona desert and the Florida Panthers would be playing in an empty arena if it were not for the snowbirds. Even the New York Islanders are currently losing money, perhaps there is such a thing as a saturated market?
I wish I could meet Mr. Bettman and ask him myself if the NHL will ever come back in Quebec City. I did so when the NHL was in London for the NHL Premiere in 2006. I got to my seat in the O2 arena and realized that the great man himself was sat in the row right in front of me and well, I just couldn't resist asking him the question. Needless to say he was less than impressed...But today Mr. Bettman, it's not just one French-Canadian in exile in London asking, it's 60,000 Quebecers, will you listen?
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