Quebec premier says NHL backs team in Quebec City

Quebec’s premier is confident the NHL wants to bring a team back

to Quebec City.

Jean Charest told The Canadian Press on Thursday that he

discussed the issue with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at the

Montreal Canadiens’ 100th anniversary game on Friday.

The premier, on a trade mission in Moscow, said Bettman seemed

sincerely interested in bringing pro hockey back to the provincial

capital a decade and a half after the Nordiques left to become the

Colorado Avalanche.

Charest said the commissioner appeared convinced of two things:

the economic viability of a team in Quebec, and the prospect of

finding investors.

Bettman has said in the past that he would consider Quebec City

as a possible home to an NHL team if it followed through on plans

to build a top arena and if a team were for sale.

The premier says several factors, including revenue-sharing and

a salary cap, have made pro hockey more viable from a business

standpoint than it was in the 1990s.

“I find it encouraging that the National Hockey League sees

viable market conditions there,” Charest told the CP. “The real

question for a hockey team is whether it’s economically feasible

and, in a market like Quebec, I believe the answer is yes.”

He conceded that the team will remain a pipe dream as long as

Quebec doesn’t build a modern arena. The city administration wants

to build one, but expects almost all the money – $238 million – to

come from public funds at the federal and provincial levels.

“We’re still far from having a hockey team,” Charest said.

“We would need a multipurpose center and I believe in that project

because a city of Quebec’s size needs a multipurpose

building.”

But one prominent sports economist says that if the project made

financial sense private investors would already be lining up to

build the arena with their own money.

Michel Poitevin, head of the University of Montreal’s economics

department, notes that the Montreal Canadiens were purchased, and

their Bell Centre built, without public funds. So was the city’s

stadium for the Montreal Impact soccer team.