Hockey

Scott Stinson: With NHL enlargement to Seattle, a second Quebec workforce stays pure fantasy

The record of coming occasions for the Videotron Centre in Quebec Metropolis subsequent month is simple. There are some junior hockey video games, and one live performance: Bryan Adams.

A whole month anchored by a 59-year-old rock star performing such hits as Summer season of Soixante-Neuf will not be what Quebec politicians had in thoughts after they placed on Nordiques jerseys and picked up spades some years again to interrupt floor on the world, the shovels being a wonderful metaphor for the $330-million of public cash that was being dumped into the place.

What they’d in thoughts was NHL hockey, the dream of a return of the world’s premier league that includes males on skates. And with Tuesday’s formal information that the league was increasing, once more, however this time to Seattle, a second Quebec workforce and eighth in Canada will stay very a lot a fantasy.

That this consequence has been within the works for months doesn’t make it any much less awkward for followers in Quebec Metropolis, and people politicians — from all ranges of presidency — who spent piles of their cash following the NHL’s most popular path: Construct an enviornment, and we’ll discuss.

The world boosters began selling the advantages of such a constructing within the early a part of this decade, whilst NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, in his patented dismissive approach, stored saying publicly that, gosh, the league simply had no plans to broaden. There was a frisson of pleasure in the summertime of 2015 when the NHL introduced that it might enable events to submit enlargement proposals, however a yr later Bettman stated that it was granting a workforce to simply one of many candidates — Las Vegas. Quebec Metropolis was receiving a tousle of the hair and a pat on the cheek: the bid was wonderful, with the spiffy enviornment and a deep-pocketed potential proprietor in Quebecor, however the Canadian greenback was weak and town itself was over there within the East, which might have exacerbated the league’s convention imbalance. That each this stuff have been true earlier than the NHL solicited enlargement bids at $10-million a pop didn’t appear to concern the commissioner within the least. Good strive, Quebec Metropolis. Tousle, pat.

The Centre Videotron is proven on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 in Quebec Metropolis. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

That the Seattle group that’s now the steward of the NHL’s 32nd franchise didn’t need to win any bid technique of the type that the Quebec capital endured should solely make it that rather more galling to those that have been turned down. Some rich males with an eye fixed on renovating an outdated enviornment batted their eyelashes on the NHL, and the indications proper from the start have been that the league was receptive. Seattle, conveniently located over on the west coast, permits the NHL to have 16 groups in every convention and likewise the financial system doesn’t run on these vibrant Canadian {dollars}. The success of the Vegas experiment was barely two months outdated when the NHL gave the Seattle group the go-ahead final yr on the enlargement that was formally permitted on Tuesday. Regardless of the deserves of Seattle as an NHL market, and they look like many, the broader purpose for the transfer is cash. The opposite NHL house owners now get to spilt a US$650-million enlargement charge, on high of the US$500-million they divvied up from Vegas. Additionally they get that windfall with a ways between now and the scheduled finish of the present collective-bargaining settlement with the gamers in 2023, a degree at which the league will inevitably begin tutting about troubled workforce funds and the necessity to squeeze sure concessions from the union. It’s exhausting to drag that off if you end up rolling round in a recent $1.15-billion in enlargement charges.

However all that free cash ignores the bigger query of whether or not the NHL actually must be in 32 markets, which was the identical query requested when Vegas grew to become the 31st. Ever for the reason that league started its aggressive southern enlargement within the 1990s, there has perpetually been a handful of downside franchises. A few of these have modified through the years, and even groups that appear stable right now like Tampa have staggered via possession adjustments amid detached markets. When the Nashville workforce was going via chapter, a commerce for Ottawa’s Mike Fisher was reported within the native paper as “Predators Commerce for Carrie Underwood’s Husband.” Right this moment’s downside groups — Arizona, Florida, the Brooklyn Islanders — have been issues for years now. Even the Carolina Hurricanes, with new possession and everybody swooning over their goofy-but-fun post-game celebrations, are nonetheless 29th in attendance at fewer than 13,000 per recreation. Does the NHL actually need so as to add one other workforce when it all the time has at the very least a few franchises in search of some mixture of a brand new enviornment, new traders, and much more followers?

Seattle Hockey Companions President and CEO Tod Leiweke speaks after the NHL Board of Governors named Seattle because the league’s 32nd franchise, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Sea Island, Ga. Stephen B. Morton/AP Photograph

Naturally, that is the place Quebec Metropolis comes again into the image. It may very well be a touchdown spot for a kind of groups, identical to Winnipeg was for Atlanta. It is also Kansas Metropolis, which constructed an enviornment in 2007 and continues to be with no major-league tenant.

In February, the occasion record for the Videotron Centre consists of junior hockey and, once more, one live performance: Montreal singer-songwriter Jean-Pierre Ferland. He’s 84.

Be aware to NHL: there stays room for you on the schedule.

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