After NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s state of the league address Monday touched on potential expansion to Seattle, discussion of the circumstances surrounding a potential 32nd team has ramped up once again.
Seattle appears to be the frontrunner to land the NHL’s next franchise, though Bettman said Monday that he’s unsure when exactly the league will vote on the city’s pending expansion application.
However, after expanding to Las Vegas in 2017-18, the NHL is due to turn its attention to Canada if it intends to add another club, according to Don Cherry.
“Quebec is unbelievable to me. There’s never been a rivalry in hockey, or any sport, like Quebec and Montreal,” Cherry said of the old Nordiques–Canadiens rivalry during Coach’s Corner Wednesday. “They’ve got 18,000 people, they’ve got a new building, they’re ready to go. I think it’s fantastic … I think they deserve it, I really do.”
Bettman, who happened to be near the Coach’s Corner set at T-Mobile Arena during the first intermission of Game 2, joined Cherry and Ron MacLean for the discussion — the commissioner said some logistical obstacles remain on Quebec City’s path to expansion, and that the league “isn’t in a process right now.”
Earlier this month, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs expressed skepticism about Quebec’s potential, telling reporters: “Quebec is challenged, okay, I’m going to put it nicely. They’re challenged. Look at the income base and the population base and there probably isn’t a smaller market, so they’re going to really have to distinguish themselves in some other way, I would think.”
Regardless of the potential issues, Cherry reiterated Wednesday that he believes the city deserves a chance.
“Eighteen-thousand people — [Quebec] will support a team,” Cherry said. “They’ve got a brand new building and I think they should be in consideration, for sure.”
The Nordiques, Quebec City’s original NHL franchise, joined the NHL in 1979, competing for 16 seasons in the league before financial issues forced the team to relocate to Denver and rebrand as the Colorado Avalanche.