The dream of bringing the Quebec Nordiques back to life appears slim at this point.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with Quebec finance minister Eric Girard on Thursday to discuss the possibility of bringing an NHL franchise to Quebec City. While both sides described the meeting as “cordial,” Bettman stated that there was no current opportunity for the league to return to Quebec.
“We explained that, while we were appreciative and flattered by the interest expressed, unfortunately, we were not aware of any opportunity that could address that interest at the current time,” Bettman said.
“We appreciate that the lines of communication between the parties have been refreshed, and we agreed to stay in touch with each other as circumstances warrant going forward.”
The Nordiques joined the NHL in 1979 as part of the four-team WHA merger, along with the Hartford Whalers, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets.
In 1995, a weak Canadian dollar resulted in the Nordiques packing up and moving to Colorado to become the Avalanche. The Avs won the Stanley Cup in their first season in Colorado, led by former Montreal Canadiens star Patrick Roy.
Quebec has been courting for a new NHL franchise for years, as a local grassroots movement has fans show up to games of teams with attendance issues wearing Nordiques gear. The province’s government also helped finance the construction of a new, NHL-ready facility, Centre Vidéotron, which opened in 2015.
Despite Quebec’s efforts, the NHL has continued to decline the return of the Nordiques. The league deferred Quebec’s bid for an expansion team back in 2016, at the same time the league announced expansion into Las Vegas.
Given the NHL just welcomed its 32nd team to the league, the Seattle Kraken, it’s difficult to imagine the league will be looking to expand. Having 32 teams gives the NHL symmetry, with an even 16 teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference along with eight teams in each division.
If Quebec was going to get a team, it would likely have to come through relocation, just as it did in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers packed up and moved to Winnipeg to create the second go-around of the Jets.
The natural assumption is that Quebec was trying to get the struggling Arizona Coyotes to move north. The Coyotes don’t have a home for the 2022-23 season as the City of Glendale is opting out of the joint lease agreement for the Gila River Arena and the organization’s plans to build a new facility in downtown Tempe are at a standstill.
There have been rumors that the Coyotes are up for sale with the intention of moving them to Houston, but the organization has said that isn’t the case.