Could the Coyotes failed arena deal mean a return of the Quebec Nordiques? Probably not
Voters in Tempe, Arizona, home of the beleaguered Coyotes, have spoken and said a distinct "No" to a new arena.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is "terribly disappointed" that whatever fans there are in Arizona will not get a 16,000-seat arena, and conversations in sports bars in Salt Lake City, Houston and Quebec City are beginning to ask, "Could we be next?"
When it comes to Quebec City, home of the long-lost Nordiques, the answer seems to be clear and definitive: Nope.
"The NHL doesn't want hockey in Quebec City, and they will not get the Coyotes," said sports economist professor Moshe Lander of Concordia University. "At the end of the day, you can't just relocate an NHL franchise without the agreement of three-quarters of the NHL owners and without a very, very hefty relocation fee."
The website bookies.com gives Houston the top odds of landing the Coyotes if they move, with 40 per cent, followed by Kansas City (18.2 per cent) and a second Toronto team (17.4 per cent). Salt Lake City and Sacramento were also mentioned as possibilities.
Both cities are in the same geographic region as Arizona, so the league wouldn't need to realign any divisions.
Quebec City is sixth on the betting site with 7.7 per cent odds.
Premier Francois Legault said in 2021 that his CAQ government was looking for partners to help put together money for a bid.
"I tell myself that if Ottawa and Winnipeg are able to have a team, we should be able to have a team in Quebec," he said at the time.
Lander said it's unlikely that any Quebec ownership group would purchase the Coyotes, estimated at over $1 billion, pay the relocation fee and be able to pay enough players to play in the provincial capital in addition to coming up with the money to upgrade the Videotron Centre.
"And you're still going to have to convince players to come to Quebec City," said Lander. "And let's not forget that Quebec is one of the highest taxed jurisdictions in all of North America. And so you compare that against Arizona, which has precisely zero per cent state tax, and I bet you that the players, even though they might be playing in Mullett Arena, would be happy to remain down there rather than come up to go back."
In addition, Lander pointed out that the diversity of current professional hockey players is much different than what it was when the Nordiques were in the NHL.
"And let's not even discuss the language law issues," he said. "While that's not a big issue for the players, it can become an issue for the players' spouses and children... Because the hockey season coincides with the school year, they will have to go to school here as well."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told hockey expert Pierre Lebrun in an article in The Athletic that he feels the Coyotes will stay put in Arizona next year.
The article adds that the metropolitan population of about 800,000 and the lack of a corporate base makes it an unlikely destination for any NHL team.
Though Nordiques fans continue to dot NHL arenas, hoping for a team to return, Lander said fan interest is never why teams relocate.
"The NHL wants to keep cities dangling because if they can use that as leverage in negotiation with other cities," he said.
Calgary, he said, got an arena deal because its owners dangled Houston as a possible destination to get tax dollars to refit their arena, and Ottawa will likely do something similar with its new ownership group.
"The NHL wants to keep them dangling there as a pawn, not because they actually want to franchise there," he said. "So keep wearing your Nordiques jerseys and cheering for the avalanche, I guess."