Bertrand, who is again proclaiming his sovereigntist faith after embracing federalism for several years, said Thursday he wants Quebec’s hockey elite to play a pre-tournament best-of-three or best-of-five series against players from the rest of Canada. Up for grabs would be one spot at the 2008 world championship, which will be held in Quebec City and Halifax.
Bertrand’s scenario would see some of the losing players allowed to represent the winning team at the worlds.
Bertrand, who ran for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois in 1985 before he put on his federalist hat after the 1995 referendum, made it clear he’s back in the separatist camp.
“If Quebec can’t play hockey with the greats of the world at international competitions, just because it isn’t sovereign, what do you think is left for us to do? To be crushed or to be free?
“Hockey in Quebec is part of popular culture and has been so for more than 100 years. And Quebec has always been recognized as the hockey master of the world.”
Hockey Canada officials were not immediately available Thursday but president Bob Nicholson rejected the idea of a Team Quebec last December when Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe mentioned it in the federal election campaign.
Nicholson said International Ice Hockey Federation rules allow for only one entry per country at world championships and Olympic Games.
At the time, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier, a Quebec native who has represented Canada on several occasions, said he’d choose to play for Canada. Superstar goalie Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils also backs a united Canada in his recent book.
Bertrand’s views didn’t get a warm reception from Premier Jean Charest’s government.
“I think he’s a sovereigntist,” Sports Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said of Bertrand.
Fournier said Canada’s rich hockey tradition has been forged by Quebecers and other Canadians skating in the same direction.
“We are all part of the same team. We were in 1972 when (Paul) Henderson and (Yvan) Cournoyer were together on the ice for the winning goal. Same thing for (Wayne) Gretzky and (Mario) Lemieux in 1987.
“And we were proud of that.”
Bertrand urged Charest to defend the idea of a Team Quebec, saying unanimity in the legislature would force Prime Minister Stephen Harper to go along with the idea.
The lawyer noted that the federal government has already acknowledged Quebec’s international aspirations by promising it a more prominent role at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
He also cited a Leger Marketing survey indicating that 72 per cent of Quebecers favoured the idea.
Bertrand wrote Nicholson a letter last week asking him to review his decision last year to reject the proposal of a Quebec team.
Quebec City will celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2008, and Bertrand said it would be a beautiful “gift” if the city could see a Quebec team in action.
He also warned of an “economic fiasco” in the city if there is no Quebec team.