MONTREAL - Former NHL president John Ziegler says Quebec City fans deserve another team but that it remains to be seen whether the venture can be profitable.
''They were very loyal fans and of course they've always been very knowledgeable fans,'' Ziegler told The Canadian Press.
''And the number of players who have come out of Quebec and play in the National Hockley League is legion.''
The man who held the league's top job between 1977 and 1992 says it's natural for Quebec hockey fans to want another top-level team because ''some of the greatest stars have come from the Quebec hockey system.''
But Ziegler, who works as a part-time governor with the Chicago Blackhawks, says at least one pretty basic question remains.
''The question that has to be answered is 'Can they afford it?''' You'll have to have a modern building and you'll have to have the support from revenues besides gate receipts to support a present NHL team.''
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated last Friday that the league has no current plans to expand or relocate and that a new building won't guarantee getting a team.
Ottawa announced last week it will give Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume time to raise more private-sector funding for a new hockey building before it considers a federal role in the project.
The arena issue has roused passions across the country and could flare up again if there is a federal election this year. Voters in several cities want new or improved sports buildings while many taxpayers would be angered if funds were to be used to build arenas for non-existent NHL teams.
The cost of the Quebec City arena has been pegged at $400 million, with the province promising to contribute $180 million and the municipal government pledging about $50 million.
Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau said Jan. 23 he has offered ''tens of millions of dollars'' to help build the facility.
But a spokesman for Quebec City's municipal government has said work will begin this month to determine whether the $400-million figure is accurate.
The provincial government is also studying the price tag, with officials already having noted that the cost estimate has a margin of error of up to 75 per cent.