Canadian dollar a question for Quebec City NHL expansion bid

The value of the Canadian one dollar coin, aka the loonie, has dropped like crazy in recent months. But that didn’t stop the group trying to bring back an NHL team to Quebec City from stressing to the league Tuesday that the city’s economy is in much better shape than it was in 1995, when the Quebec Nordiques bolted for Colorado and became the Avalanche.

According to The Canadian Press, the heads of media giant Quebecor Inc. (former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Quebecor CEO Pierre Dion) wanted to make sure NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the rest of the league’s executive committee appreciated that Quebec City’s economy is much stronger than it was 20 years ago — though the loonie is trading at about 75 cents compared to 72 cents in 1995.

Mulroney told reporters in New York that the Quebecor group is confident an expansion team can succeed in Quebec City in spite of the weak Canadian dollar.

“It’s in the hands of the league,” Dion said. “We will continue to be discreet and patient.”

The NHL chose Quebec City and Las Vegas to make presentations out of 16 expansion applicants. The committee, comprised of 10 NHL team owners, also heard an hourlong pitch by the Las Vegas group led by billionaire businessman Bill Foley.

TOUGH CROWD — Quebecor’s presentation was buoyed by footage of a capacity crowd of 18,259 at Quebec City’s new arena, the Videotron Center, where the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins played Monday in a preseason game.

“There is no doubt it’s a wonderful building and there are great hockey fans in Quebec City,” Bettman said. “But making a decision (on expansion) has to go beyond that.”

Most of the commenters on The Canadian Press story were suspicious of Bettman, who was commissioner when economic woes played a major role in the Nordiques leaving town.

Here are a few comments: “Bet he’s waiting to see how the Canadian Dollar pans out, there’s no value in a Canadian revenue team in an American based sport”; “If it was Vegas or Seattle or New Orleans or Jackson, Mississippi, Bettman would say expansion will happen next year. But because Quebec is in the mix, he is holding out for them to drop their bid”; “the main issue is that Bettman doesn’t want another team in Canada”; “No time table for expansion because it’s a Canadian team that is applying. How do we get Bettman to leave the NHL so we can have our game back.”

LOONIE BIN — Quebec native Jacques Demers, a former Nordiques coach and two-time NHL coach of the year, is thrilled at the prospect of an expansion team and with the new arena in his hometown.

“Who would think we could build such an unbelievable building with 800,000 people. You’re supposed to have 2½ million people to have a building like that,” he said. “It will be full. They’ll do well. Hopefully the U.S. exchange (rate) … comes down a little bit.”

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