Aubut: NHL in Quebec City soon
|Nordiques Nation could see the return of the team in the very near future, says Marcel Aubut. (Suzy Allman for QMI Agency)
QUEBEC CITY -- Marcel Aubut, who sold the Quebec Nordiques 16 years ago, says he thinks NHL hockey will return to the provincial capital within two years.
Six U.S. NHL franchises are in trouble and ripe for relocation, Aubut told QMI Agency.
Aubut sold the money-losing Nordiques to American interests in 1995 and the team moved to Colorado that same year to become the Avalanche.
Aubut says he wants to make things right with Quebec's jilted hockey fans.
"It interests me because I participated in the departure and return," said Aubut, referring to his recent lobbying efforts.
"It's really coming full circle."
Aubut says his hometown could have had a team sooner had a new arena been ready by this year, but the $400-million facility won't be completed until 2015.
That means an NHL team that relocates in 2013 would have to play its first two seasons in the Pepsi Colisee, a 61-year-old facility that's not up to NHL standards.
"If we had (built) earlier, we would have had a team today, not Winnipeg," he said of the Atlanta Thrashers' move to Manitoba in May.
"I know that (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman would have chosen Quebec City way before Winnipeg. I remember when the Nordiques left, he said 'we just lost a big asset, with the cultural aspect that Quebec represents.' This was an American talking!"
Media and telecom giant Quebecor Inc. will pay $33 million for naming and management rights to the NHL-ready arena in Quebec City -- an amount that would nearly double should Quebec City land an NHL franchise.
Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau also has made it clear he would be interested in owning any future NHL franchise in the city.
Quebecor Inc. owns QMI Agency and Sun Media newspapers.
Aubut says the relocation clock is ticking. The U.S. economy will eventually recover and Aubut says the owners of struggling franchises will be less likely to sell their holdings once the downturn ends.