The reports of the NHL’s Executive Committee unanimously approving Las Vegas and not Quebec City should be no surprise to anyone.
The NHL has been trying to subtly suggest Quebec might not be part of this expansion for a while now. The hints have been coming hard and heavy in recent weeks. Certainly, it has helped the NHL and its exit strategy on expansion.
Word came out months ago that expansion could be one, two or maybe even no teams at all. It prepared hockey fans in Quebec City for the worst.
In interviews over the past 60 days, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has suggested that the fluctuating Canadian dollar has cost the league up to $200 million in revenue. It’s a talking point that Bettman would rarely discuss publicly in recent years. It was certain to soften the blow when Quebec City would be left out of expansion.
Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, who had led the Quebecor charge for expansion, was quoted as saying two weeks ago that, “eventually, we will have a team in Quebec, I think, but it will not be for tomorrow.”
While not the official approval expansion, the NHL’s Executive Committee unanimous approval of Las Vegas is a not so subtle hint that the NHL will not be returning to Quebec City soon.
The news is the same. The message has just been softened.
The reality of Quebec City’s application is that it’s incomplete. The Videotron Centre, Quebec City’s new arena, is fantastic. The fan base is as rabid as any in hockey and would fill every seat.
But where would the corporate dollars come from? I’m told that portion of the application did not really properly address how and where the dollars would come from. It was the weak link in the proposal.
How quickly would this team require an injection of revenue sharing from the other partners, which would dilute the almost $17 million fee each team would receive? The Toronto Maple Leafs paid almost $30 million into revenue sharing last year. Would they, and every other “have” team, be paying more in a few years?
It was a risk that Bettman could not recommend. It was a risk that the Executive Committee would not approve. From a pure business sense, it was not realistic.
Many are convinced, as Mulroney said, that Quebec City’s time will come, that the NHL will return. But the question will still linger, where will the money, beyond ticket sales, come from? This is a business. Sad, but true.