I'll be the first to admit it, I barely remember the Quebec Nordiques. I remember being scared they were going to eliminate us in 1993, but even that is a vague semblance of a feeling compared to the clarity of watching the Montreal Canadiens beat the Los Angeles Kings in the finals.
The rivalry has been gone, dormant for long years, 18 in fact if you include this ongoing lockout year. Many former Nordiques fans now cheer on the Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge of the Habs. Our own Olivier Bouchard wrote about this just last week. However dormant does not meant dead, and with a sparkling new arena being built in Quebec city, there is reason to believe the rivalry will be back with a bang soon.
With the proposed re-alignment the NHL approved and the NHLPA killed last season, it's very clear that the NHL would like to expand to 32 teams in the very near future, with 4 conferences of 8 teams. This allows for two new teams in the Eastern Conference. Likely one in Southern Ontario, and one in Quebec City.
So who's the prospective owner of this proposed reincarnation of the Nordiques? Well Pierre Karl Peladeau of course, owner, president and CEO of Quebecor Media. As if the rivalry wasn't enough between the two cities, it's a rivarly between media companies. Bell is all over the Canadiens. Bell owns CTV, which owns RDS, the Canadiens main broadcaster, they own TSN, who has a special channel for Habs games in English, TSN690, which broadcasts their games on the radio, and the word Bell is on the side of the arena the Canadiens play in in giant blue lettering. It's a rivalry from the top down.
Peladeau is no idiot. He wouldn't be pouring money into something without it being nearly a sure thing. We've seen the league move a franchise to Winnipeg in the last season, and the euphoria that caused in Canada looked good on the league. What better way to recover from the PR disaster of a lockout than to bring hockey back to Quebec City?
And it wouldn't only help from a PR perspective. The NHL charged the new Jets ownership US$60M as a relocation fee, but that's just the tip of the iceberg if we're talking about a new franchise. According to a few sources, the fee for an expansion franchise nowadays could be upwards of US$265M. Expanding by two franchises in the same year could net the NHL a one-time revenue boom of well over half a billion dollars.
And then there's the rivalry. The rivalry between the Nordiques and the Canadiens transcended hockey. It was brutal, sometimes barbaric. Every game was a war, and it only got more insane during the playoffs. The rivalry came to it's highest point in Game 6 of the second round in the 1984 Stanley Cup Playoffs, better known as the Good Friday Massacre. It wasn't so much a hockey game as it was mixed martial arts on skates, as the Canadiens eventually eliminated the Nordiques after 10 players were ejected and 252 penalty minutes were handed out. The game was so out of control that the referee charged with officiating the game, Bruce Hood, was pushed into retirement right after the playoffs ended.
Listen to players themselves describe the game:
A friend of mine who lived through the rivalry attempted to explain it to me last week, and it essentially came down to this: The battle between Quebec and Montreal wasn't something to do with the NHL, it was about your own back yard. We hate the Bruins now, partially due to many recent playoff meetings, partially due to the hit on Max Pacioretty, but we don't have constant exposure to Bruins fans. They come up here to have fun once in awhile, but they're not here. The Nordiques rivalry is between you, your friends, your neighbours. They're all around you. This rivalry is something that belongs to Quebec. We own it.