Quebec nets national hockey team

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:56 PM ET

QUEBEC - Hockey Canada has given the go-ahead for Quebec to field its own international hockey team.

Team Quebec will compete against Switzerland, France and Italy in the Quebec Cup, a tournament slated for early next August in the provincial capital.

Sovereigntists have been pushing for a Quebec squad since the 1970s, but both the provincial and federal hockey federations are minimizing the significance of the new team.

"It's not political at all," said Daniel Cote, communications director of Hockey Quebec, on Saturday.

"People may see it that way, but we don't at Hockey Quebec." The hockey federation said it hopes to recruit Quebecers playing for the NHL and in Europe for its squad.

Hockey Canada has only sanctioned Team Quebec for this one invitational tournament, which will raise funds for minor league hockey in the province.

Scott Smith, chief operating officer for the organization, said in an e-mail Saturday the governing body gave the tournament and the Quebec team the green light on two conditions.

"All the players on Team Quebec would have to be players registered with both Hockey Canada and Hockey Quebec and that all communications with other national bodies go through Hockey Canada," he said.

Smith also noted a separate Quebec team already regularly takes on regional Canadian teams and international squads in the World Under-17 challenge.

Still, Quebec politicians were quick to jump on the move.

"I don't see why we should declare Quebec's hockey independence when we could have a winning team with our Canadian teammates," said provincial Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier on Friday.

Meanwhile, Parti Quebecois MNA Bernard Drainville cheered Hockey Canada's decision, saying it should be extended to other sports.

"It's a great idea," he said. "We'd have good teams too. If there'd been a Team Quebec in the Olympics, Canada would have come home with more medals." Ottawa, however, has been less vocal on the issue.

"Sport Canada does not contribute to this hockey tournament," said a spokeswoman for the ministry in a statement, referring any questions back to Hockey Canada.


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