Quebec needs arena before NHL team

CHRIS STEVENSON and RICHARD LATENDRESSE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:42 PM ET

VANCOUVER - Marcel Aubut is here for the Olympics as president-elect of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

But the former owner of the Quebec Nordiques can’t go far without being asked about the return of La Vielle Capitale to the NHL.

Aubut sounded more enthusiastic and optimistic than ever about a new $400 million building - the first big step towards making the city suitable for the return of the NHL - becoming a reality.

“I don’t think we should talk about the NHL in Quebec City before talking about a new building being built,” Aubut told QMI Agency Thursday. “The alignment of the stars of making that a possibility in the short term is very, very high. When you’ve got the mayor, the premier and the population behind it, usually those things happen.

“It’s for the population so you’re sure to be seen as a first-rate city. I think it’s just a matter of time.”

Aubut, along with Quebec mayor Regis Labeaume, met with NHL commissioner and deputy commissioner Bill Daly in New York in October and were told a new building was “the foundation of an potential return to the NHL” of the city, said Daly.

Aubut said the biggest battle - getting the politicians on side - appears to be won. The city is willing to put $50 million towards the $400 million cost with the rest coming from public infrastructure funds.

“They won’t lose an election on that because the population is behind them. A project where they won’t lose votes, usually they will do it,” he said.

Quebec lost the NHL's Nordiques after the 1995 season as the team outgrew Le Colisee and the franchise moved to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche.

The irony now is Quebec - with a new building - could be considered a destination for any of the American franchises that are struggling at the gate, teams like the Florida Panthers or Nashville Predators. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Phoenix Coyotes were both tentatively sold to owners committed to keeping the teams in their present markets for the time being.

“When people talk about an (NHL) team, that doesn’t mean to buy a team necessarily, just maybe to offer a transfer to a team that has struggled where it is. All those options are right on the table,” said Aubut.

A new building would also be necessary to keep Quebec in the mix for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.


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