QUEBEC CITY – Quebec City was a veritable sea of blue Saturday as thousands of hockey fans flooded the provincial capital to show their support for the return of the Nordiques NHL franchise.
The so-called Blue March was organized to send a message to the federal government and the NHL that Quebec wanted the team brought home. The Nordiques left the city in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche.
Municipal, provincial and federal politicians were out in full force, including a number of Conservative MPs. Tory Minister Josee Verner was seen sporting a Nordiques jersey over her shoulders.
Ottawa drew a firestorm of controversy from the rest of Canada a few weeks ago when it flirted with funding part of the new arena. The proposed project is part of a planned Olympic bid and necessary for the franchise’s return.
Verner told QMI Agency Saturday the Harper government couldn’t rely solely on the Ernst and Young report on the financing for the arena in its decision to contributing funds. The feds also want to see private money on the table.
“What we’re looking for is another way of doing things,” she said, adding Ottawa might wait to see if Quebec’s bid for the Olympics is accepted in 2015 before making up its mind.
Participants were drawn to the event in part to catch a glimpse of former hockey heroes, including the three legendry Stastny brothers, who played for the club in the 1980s.
The event will end with an exhibition game Saturday evening between the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Islanders.
Quebec City mayor Regis Labeaume estimated between 75,000 and 100,000 people turned out to the rally.