QUEBEC CITY -- It would appear that the NHL’s top two in command are at least taking notice of Quebec City’s drive to get a new franchise.
“It is apparent that the overall reaction in Quebec City to Mayor Labeaume's plan for a new arena is very positive,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman in an e-mail with the Journal de Quebec. “We will watch the process with interest.”
Bill Daly echoed those statements and added that a new arena built in Quebec City would go a long way in helping the city secure a team.
“We are encouraged by the Mayor's announcement on the new arena and we believe it will be a very good thing for the City of Quebec,” he said. “While there are no guarantees that an NHL franchise can return, certainly a new arena will enhance those prospects significantly.”
The question of what the city has to do to get a team -– building a new amphitheatre seems to be the key here -– remains, as does Quebec City’s position in relation to other cities vying for a franchise.
Will Quebec City be put ahead of Kansas City, Las Vegas and other American cities looking to land a hockey club?
Neither Daly nor Bettman will comment on a possible ranking as far as Quebec is concerned. Daly, however, told the Toronto Star on Oct. 11 that the league favours Canadian cities that have supported NHL franchises in the past.
Answering a question about Hamilton’s hope of getting a team, Daly said: ``Both Winnipeg and Quebec have already done that (supported an NHL team). We`ll see how things evolve. That doesn`t mean that Hamilton won`t be considered. It will be.`` So is it possible that Quebec, Winnipeg and Hamilton could all land franchises at the same time? Sources close to the NHL have said that the six Canadian teams have become important for the NHL since the economic crisis hit the US will full force. That has resulted in teams like the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lighting, Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes all facing serious financial troubles.
The Coyotes, for their part, are offering free tickets to their fans for certain games in an effort to get fans into the seats. However, while the Coyotes filled their arena for the home opener when all tickets were priced less than $25, only 6,899 fans showed up for the following games.
Would things be similar in Quebec, Winnipeg or Hamilton?