In September of 2012, Quebec City’s hope for the return of an NHL team was renewed when ground was broken on construction of a new arena. There’s absolutely no guarantee from the NHL that a team, through expansion or relocation, would sprout from this effort, but the chance of a return certainly increases with a new, 18,000-seat rink in place. Part of the reason Winnipeg was able to land the relocated Atlanta Thrashers was they had an arena ready for the team to move into.
Earlier this year, David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail wrote about the NHL’s exploration of expansion, which favored Las Vegas and Seattle, two western teams that would even the current 16-14 imbalance between the two conferences. He reported NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had met with two prospective ownership groups out of Las Vegas.
Bettman had this to say Tuesday, in an e-mail message, when asked about the meetings:
“At this point, there is no ‘structure’ to any of this. We just continue to listen to unsolicited expressions of interest (which have come from a number of parties) and sometimes those expressions of interest come in meetings that the interested parties have requested! To suggest a timetable or anything else at this point is pure speculation.”
As reported earlier in this space, Seattle, Las Vegas and Quebec City are the cities in play when it comes to NHL expansion.
Markham, Ont., taxpayers please note: a second team for the Greater Toronto Area is not even part of the conversation.
Right now, Quebec City and Las Vegas (which broke ground in May) are constructing new arenas. A potential new building in Seattle has long been tied to an NBA team returning to the city. Chris Hansen, who holds the rights to build a new arena in Seattle, had his bid to relocate the Sacramento Kings rejected by the NBA in 2013 as that team stayed in California. Steve Ballmer was a part of Hansen’s investment team, but he is now on the verge of purchasing the Los Angeles Clippers for $2.2 billion.
Hansen, who would welcome an NHL franchise as a tenant in his arena, has in the past said he’s not interested in being the principal owner of a hockey team. He reiterated that point to the Seattle Times in April of this year:
(You’ve said hockey isn’t your passion. Has that changed?) “No. That’s not the type of thing that’s going to change. You’re passionate about something or you’re not. I think every once in a while we can find new things that we’re passionate about. I would just say this is too big of a thing. You’re basically being responsible for something that means a lot to a lot of other people. We can all see success and failures in pro sports franchises and what they mean to the city and to their fans. I would rather not get involved in something I would put a half-hearted effort into. I think that’s the same for the rest of our group. I don’t dislike hockey. It’s not that. I actually watch playoff hockey. I think watching hockey in person is an incredible live-action sport. Until you’ve seen it in person, it’s a lot different. But that doesn’t mean that I’m passionate enough about it to take this on as a real responsibility.”
And in July, Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote that Wayne Gretzky was now part of a group trying to bring the NHL to Seattle.
As the dance goes on, Quebec’s new arena goes up. The project, which is scheduled to be completed in September of 2015, is a beacon of hope for ravenous hockey fans in Quebec City that the NHL will one day return, even without any guarantees from the league.
Below are some recent pictures from the arena site, showing the progress that has been made so far. There are three outside shots and one from the inside, followed by a video of the construction. All photos courtesy of Ville de Québec/City of Québec.