Who wouldn't want Nords back?

Quebec Mayor Regis Labeaume is one of many behind the push to return NHL hockey to Quebec City....

Quebec Mayor Regis Labeaume is one of many behind the push to return NHL hockey to Quebec City. (QMI Agency/Karl Tremblay)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:56 PM ET

QUEBEC -- They will take to the Plains of Abraham Saturday for the "Blue March," maybe as many as 50,000 Quebeckers, a rally on an old battleground to show support for the return of the Quebec Nordiques to the NHL.

Really, who wouldn't want to see the Nordiques back in the NHL and the resumption of the Battle of Quebec between the Nords and Montreal Canadiens?

Honestly, who wouldn't?

"If the Nordiques came back, that rivalry would be even bigger now," said former Nordique Andre Savard, a Quebec City resident who also served as the GM of the Canadiens and is now a pro scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins. "I know that sounds hard to believe, but with the way the game is covered now, with all the TV coverage ... it would be bigger than ever."

It will be hard to find a naysayer Saturday on the Plains of Abraham, regardless of the fact Quebec needs a new arena to even begin contemplating a return to the NHL and then there's the matter of a team.

The news on the arena front took a turn for the better Thursday with Quebec Mayor Regis Labeaume announcing he'll sink $25 million into studies and calls for tender with an eye toward starting construction a year from now.

Never mind only about half of the money for the $400-million project is on the table from the province and the city and nobody can seem to get a straight answer from the feds on the $175 million they are being asked to chip into the deal.

The timing of Labeaume's announcement will pump up the hopes of the masses Saturday.

Not to mention the presence of former Nordiques greats such as the Stastny brothers -- Peter, Marian and Anton -- and Hall of Famer Michel Goulet, as well as Savard, Alain Cote and other Nordiques whom fans came to love. The club was in the NHL from 1979 to '95 after starting out in the World Hockey Association.

"I know the significance this event has for the population. It's a symbol for me to participate and show my deep attachment to Quebec," Stastny, now a politician representing his native Slovakia in the European parliament, told QMI Agency.

The Nordiques left for Denver in 1995 because they couldn't make a go of it financially.

So, what has changed? Could Quebec City support an NHL team now?

"Quebec has changed since the Nordiques left," Savard said. "I think it's in a much better position than it was in 1995. The city has grown. You can see it from the traffic. Obviously, getting the NHL back will be a challenge, but attendance won't be a problem.

"I think it's the young people who didn't get to see the Nordiques who want it the most. They're pushing for it."

So it's going to be a great big blue hug on the plains Saturday and there will be a similar buzz at the Colisee Saturday night when the Canadiens wrap up their exhibition schedule against the New York Islanders, a team -- surprise -- that is rumoured along with the other usual suspects -- Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and the Phoenix Coyotes -- to be candidates for a move to Quebec or Winnipeg. (For those wanting to attach particular significance to the presence of the Islanders, owner Charles Wang -- who seems to be getting nowhere with his Lighthouse Project -- said last week the club would honour its current lease in Uniondale which runs through 2015. The Isles are in dire need of a new or refurbished rink, which the Lighthouse Project would provide.)

The presence of Stastny and the other Nordiques will rekindle the passion of the past, but Saturday is going to be about having a chance to show that passion for new Nordiques in the future.

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chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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