Photo: New York Times
A group of 1,100 Quebec hockey fans will make the trip across the United States border tonight to attend tomorrow evening’s New York Islanders game.They aren’t hoping to steal the Islanders. Rather, they want this to be a demonstration to Commissioner Gary Bettman about the passion of Quebec fans in the hopes that he’ll realise the city can support an NHL team.
The group is particularly optimistic that the Atlanta Thrashers could be had.
The 1,100 die hard fans will make the 550 mile trip to Long Island on 22 buses, and the trip’s organisers have already given each fan’s passport numbers to customs authorities to speed the journey along.
Nordiques Nation, the biggest organisation of Quebec fans, staged a ‘Blue March’ on October 2 to generate support for an NHL return. 50 thousand fans and 16 former Quebec players attended.
As much as these fans want a team, Bettman has been steadfast that he doesn’t want to move any of his current franchises. And if he eventually does, Quebec may not be the most logical choice. The Quebec market is only 60% of the size of the league’s current smallest market, Ottawa, and Quebec would also immediately become the fifth poorest market in the league.
But that’s not going to stop these passionate fans from trying.
Quebec’s last team, the Nordiques left the city for Denver in 1995, but Quebec mayor Régis Labeaume thinks things will be different this time around.
For one, he’s planning to build a new $400 million arena. Quebec’s provincial government is willing to pay 45% of the cost for the building, but the federal government has yet to get on board. The Canadian dollar is also about equal to the American dollar, so Lebeaume thinks that the economic situation is far better suited this time to make things work.
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