Coyotes forward Eric Belanger does not want his team to leave Phoenix, but if it does, it appears that he prefers Quebec City over Winnipeg as a possible playing destination.
Speaking to Sun Sports media on Friday, Belanger reflected on the possibility that the club's time in Phoenix could be down to its final weeks should the sale of the team to potential buyer Matthew Hulsizer fall apart.
"The guys have been talking about it a bit more every day, and the one sure thing is that we want to play in Phoenix and not in Winnipeg," Belanger told Sun Sports. "Personally, and I won't name any names, but I've chatted with guys that have played (in Winnipeg) and don't want to go back. There are reasons why hockey wasn't working in Winnipeg at the end, I don't see how that would have changed."
Belanger, 33, is a veteran of nine NHL seasons, and has also played for Los Angeles, Carolina, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Washington. The native of Sherbrooke, Quebec was drafted by the Kings in 1996, one year before the Jets left Winnipeg for Arizona.
"There are good fans there, but Winnipeg is still Winnipeg," Belanger said in the report. "In January and February, I doubt that my family would follow me out there for a holiday.
"In the mind of the players, it's Quebec before Winnipeg, for sure."
Quebec City, which lost the Nordiques to Colorado in 1995, has been rumoured alongside Winnipeg as a possible destination for an NHL team that may eventually be relocated from the United States.
"It's different in Quebec," Belanger told Sun Sports. "They are the same fans, but the economy seems to really be rolling along. The guys that I talk to loved playing in Quebec. You can't go to practice in shorts and t-shirts like I did this morning, but Quebec is attractive. At least there are things to do there."
Belanger also addressed the issue of the small crowds in Glendale that have made the Coyotes a money-loser since they arrived in the Phoenix area.
"We can't blame our fans," Belanger said. "It's been two years that they have been wondering if the club would be moving, and they will come back when it is settled.
"When these markets are having trouble, it's less money in our pockets. But do we want to go to Winnipeg for an extra one or two percent? I'm not so sure."