MONTREAL - Quebecor president and CEO Pierre-Karl Peladeau met with the heads of the NHL several weeks ago in a bid to bring professional hockey back to Quebec City.
According to media reports in the province, league representatives now have a different opinion of the city's candidacy and are seriously considering Peladeau's plan since their meeting with the businessman.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed the talks with members of Peladeau's team in a radio interview with Toronto sports station FAN 590.
Bettman recently expressed his desire to right something that never should have happened, alluding to the loss of the Winnipeg and Quebec City teams in the mid-1990s.
Speaking about the possibility of bringing another hockey franchise to his province, Quebec Premier Jean Charest said he was cautiously optimistic. He noted that there's no doubt the move would be profitable.
"Gary Bettman's statement has to be taken as a good sign," he said.
The provincial minister responsible for the Quebec City area, Sam Hamad, said he was encouraged by the commissioner's openness to the possibility of bringing a team back to the Quebec capital.
Marcel Aubut, the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee and former CEO of the Nordiques, said Bettman's comments are very encouraging for the future.
"It's the first time that he's named cities and Quebec City is there," he told Montreal newspaper Le Soleil.
Quebec City mayor Regis Labeaume called the league's attitude remarkable.
"We have not heard this in 15 years. There has to be intent somewhere," he said. Labeaume added that he would like to finalize the issue of a new sports arena in the city as soon as possible.
"The idea is to be ahead and save time," he said of the planned complex, which is expected to have a final price tag of about $400 million.
The mayor is looking to get $175 million in financial support for the project from both the province and the federal government. Intergovernmental affairs minister Josee Verner said any federal cash would have to wait until the project's business plan is finalized, and reiterated that the government will never get involved in the purchase a professional sports team.