Quebec premier says NHL backs team in Quebec City

BY foxsports • December 16, 2009

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.

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