As relocation speculation runs rampant for the Arizona Coyotes, one city keeps coming up among hockey fans. “Bring the NHL back to Quebec City,” fans cry. “Bring back the Nordiques!”
It makes sense. Quebec City is a diehard hockey market. The city has an NHL-ready arena and a more-than-interested owner to help facilitate a return. And they have an absolute layup in terms of team branding.
In some ways, the Coyotes’ current situation mirrors that of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011. Atlanta was left with financial turmoil and no arena to play in. A new ownership group stepped in and the Winnipeg Jets returned to the NHL.
The joy Winnipeg fans expressed when their team returned was palpable. Unfortunately, Nordiques fans won’t be able to feel that same joy as a result of the Coyotes moving to their city.
While I personally would love to see the Nordiques back, it doesn’t seem likely with this situation. Someday, Quebec City should get its team back. For now, and in no particular order, here are a few reasons why the Coyotes will not move to Quebec City.
Splitting the market
The NHL wants, and needs, to grow the game in North America. They’ve taken steps in that direction with their recent moves into Las Vegas and Seattle. However, there’s a key difference between those markets and Quebec City.
Vegas and Seattle were not established hockey markets, especially not to the level of Quebec. As such, the opportunity for true growth is rather limited in the French Canadian capital.
The Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken created new hockey fans in those markets. Quebec City doesn’t create as many new fans. In fact, it splits an already existing and historic market in Quebec.
While the Montreal Canadiens are likely fine with the Nordiques returning, the NHL isn’t interested in fracturing that market at this time. Especially when the league is having issues connecting with new fans outside of their two newest markets.
Another sticking point here is where Quebec City is located. Quebec is near the Atlantic Ocean and a nearly nine-hour drive to New York City. This does not work for the NHL’s current divisional alignment, a sentiment NHL insider Elliotte Friedman echoed recently.
The Coyotes are located in the Western part of the United States and play in the Central Division. Arizona is thousands of miles away from Quebec, and putting the Coyotes in Quebec would take them thousands of miles away from their Western Conference counterparts.
That creates travel nightmares for the Nordiques. And it takes a toll on players who have to constantly travel through time zones while playing grueling games night in and night out. The NHL is not going to venture into Quebec City only to create disadvantages for the team.
An impractical realignment
There are likely two responses hockey fans will have to that last point. First, Nordiques fans do not care where the team is in so long as they have a team. Second, just move the Detroit Red Wings back to the Western Conference.
To the first point, I absolutely agree. Moving the Coyotes to the French Canadian capital as a Western Conference team would not deter fans. However, the second point is where this all falls apart.
The Red Wings are not moving to the West, especially since they fought to get out of the conference, to begin with. Detroit, along with the Columbus Blue Jackets, moved to the Eastern Conference after the 2012-13 season.
The Red Wings are not going to open themselves up to a brutal travel schedule just so the NHL can split one of their historic markets. Columbus also won’t move to the West to accommodate the return of the Nordiques.
If the NHL isn’t willing to open a relocated Coyotes team to nightmarish travel, they won’t do it to an Original Six team or an established market like Columbus.
The Canadian Dollar
This is not a specific issue with Quebec City as it is simply a Canadian thing. The Canadian dollar is currently worth $0.74 US, presenting a few issues for a potential relocated Coyotes team.
The biggest issue is revenue. For the Nordiques to generate the revenue Seattle and Vegas generate, they need to charge their fans at a much higher rate given the currency difference.
You are probably thinking that Quebec fans don’t care, and you’re not wrong, at least initially. The NHL simply doesn’t believe it’s worth putting a team in a market where they will face inherent financial obstacles from the get-go.
I’d love to see the Nordiques return to the NHL. They moved from Quebec years before I was born, which certainly shows my age just a little bit. Seeing a piece of NHL history in the modern games is a fascinating prospect.
Stay strong, Quebec fans. Your team will return one day. However, there are obstacles in the city’s way that will prevent that from happening anytime soon.