One of the hottest topics in Canadian politics this fall is the debate regarding the use of taxpayer money to fund the construction of hockey arenas – specifically, hugely expensive pads that could be used to house either existing NHL franchises or relocated teams.
In Quebec, Premier Jean Charest’s government said it was willing to pay 45 percent of the costs – a projected total in the area of $400 million – of an NHL-ready building. Meanwhile, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach came out against the prospect of public funding for new rinks for the Flames and Oilers.
Beyond that political wrangling, there is an equally intriguing question here: where do NHL players feel the league should put a team (either via relocation or expansion)?
According to THN’s latest player poll - which appeared in the most recent issue - Quebec City is the clear choice as deserving of a franchise. Out of 90 players polled, 33 (or 36.7 percent) picked the capital of La Belle Province; Winnipeg was next with 18 votes (20 percent), followed by Las Vegas (12 votes/13.3 percent), Hamilton (11 votes/12.2 percent) and Seattle (five votes/5.6 percent).
Other cities receiving votes were Toronto, Houston and Kansas City (all of which received two votes each) and Stockholm, Prague, Halifax, N.S., Saskatoon, Sask., and the Kitchener-Waterloo region of Ontario (which each garnered one vote.)
If Quebec City is the favorite among NHLers, does that mean they’ll be amenable to playing there? In the past, concerns about Quebec’s tax structure, as well as the French-Canadian culture, were cited as sore spots for players. But that reticence wasn’t there among players THN’s NHL correspondents spoke to.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people and there is a huge buzz in that city,” said one New Jersey Devil, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The fan base is there, the money is there.”
Added as Dallas Stars player: “It’s such a great city. They are very organized and very ready to get another team. It would be so neat to play there again.”
Former Nordiques defenseman Randy Moller, now the radio play-by-play man and VP, broadcasting and alumni for the Florida Panthers, believes a franchise in Quebec City would be wonderful – albeit, with a caveat.
“I would love to see Quebec City get an NHL franchise again,” said Moller, adding that concerns about taxes and language/culture can be cured very easily.
“Winning cures most ailments and that’s the way it was there,” the native Albertan said. “When we were winning, a lot of that stuff was swept under the carpet. But unfortunately, it rears its ugly head – as it does in a lot of places – when the team isn’t winning.
“As long as you respect the French culture and their language – and I did – you’ll be embraced by the people there.”
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears regularly, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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