While 7,000 or so Washington hockey fans redded-out the D.C. Convention Center Saturday for Capitals Convention II about ten times that number — perhaps more — rallied in support of returning NHL hockey to Quebec City, in what’s quickly become known as the Blue March.
“This is a paradise for hockey,” beloved ex-Nordique Peter Stastny said Saturday at the rally. “I spent 10 years here. I know what people are capable of here. They deserve an NHL team. Once the team is here, I have no doubt it will work out.”
At Saturday’s rally Peter was joined by his brothers and ex-Nordiques teammates Anton and Marian.
Can you imagine an ex- Florida Panther standing before an assembly of Miamians and declaring South Florida “paradise for hockey”? Can you even imagine an assembly of hockey fans in South Florida? Or Atlanta? Sunday’s Montreal Gazette identified four NHL markets as operating under marked financial duress: Florida, Atlanta, Long Island, and Phoenix. Almost certainly there are more.
“NHL franchises in Atlanta and Florida — two traditionally non-hockey venues — were recently named in Montreal’s influential daily La Presse as possible candidates to relocate to Quebec if an NHL expansion isn’t possible,” notes this Canadian business blog.
Where there’s smoke there’s blue fire.
Saturday’s crowd in Quebec has been estimated at between 75,000 and 100,000. “A crowd that big probably hasn’t marched on the Plains of Abraham since the British invasion,” said the Ottawa Citizen. Many of the marchers, press accounts acknowledge, wore the Nordiques’ famed sweater.
More from the Citizen:
“Purely on its own merits, Quebec City deserves an NHL franchise. Thanks to a higher dollar and a salary cap, the impossible — the idea of long-departed teams returning to small-market Canada — has become the possible.
“Though Quebec would be the smallest city in the NHL, it has a stable economy and the team would likely get more than its far share of support from Quebec Inc. Plus, the return of the Nordiques would rejuvenate one of the fiercest rivalries in the sport. Let’s schedule a Montreal-Quebec game every Good Friday, shall we?”
Quebec City and the province have committed $225 million of a needed $400 million for a new rink for NHL hockey and a down-the-road bid for a Winter Olympics Games — the new rink an imperative to the scheme. The support from the province — a pledge of nearly $200 million — arrived just last month. The city and province now want the the Canadian federal government to cover the rest. The feds thus far have kept Quebec at arm’s length in the matter, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling for private money to comprise the shortfall. But the federal political dynamic is getting more interesting by the minute. “Several federal cabinet ministers attended the rally Saturday and other MPs have posed in Nordiques jerseys to show they are not turning a cold shoulder to the project,” reports the Citizen.
Another interesting political anecdote: Quebec City Mayor Regis Lebeaume was re-elected in his most recent mayoral bid with 80 percent of the vote, a central plank of his platform being returning the Nordiques to the city (an account, en francais, here).
And guess what followed Saturday afternoon’s Rally of the Blue? A hockey game, at Le Colisee, between the Canadiens and the Islanders.