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Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Traditionalist's Pipe Dream

In doing my part to keep up in the world of hockey, there's virtually just one source in which to do this through on the internet, and it requires crossing internet international boundaries to do so. Since ESPN has given up on covering the NHL or anything related to the game on ice, I have to rely on ESPN's Canadian brother to the North, TSN. Sure, everything there is told from the Canada-first perspective and why not, its a cable station only carried in Canada - this is how things ought to go there.

The one exception they do make is their over-the-top coverage of the NHL, as well as the World Championships, World Junior Championships, Olympic Ice Hockey, Canada Cup....er, wait, that doesn't exist anymore - but if it did, TSN would be all over it.

All that said, I can always count on TSN to pick my brain about certain topics. For instance, after all the blathering on about where the Predators were going to end up because Nashville can't support an NHL franchise (which the new owners will find out soon enough, this new group is merely a Band-Aid for Gary Bettman's wet dream) there was plenty of talk about the team going to southern Ontario, or if things got really crazy - off to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada - former home of the Jets.

This, of course, got me thinking back to a paper I had to write for a History of Sports class I took in college which examined the failures of some of the more recent NHL teams and why they came to the sun belt of the United States. In this paper, I looked at three franchises that were in hockey hotbeds that were moved away for three different and distinct reasons. You can probably guess those three teams easily if you remember anything from the 1980s and 1990s. If you can't guess, I focused it on the Minnesota North Stars, Winnipeg Jets and the focus of today's rambling, the Quebec Nordiques.

While rooting around on TSN, I found this story about how Quebec City is still clinging to their dream of having an NHL team once again. While reading this story, I discovered that even the Canadian press has developed the same nasty habit the American press has cultivated - developing a story out of nothing.

Here, we find out that one of the Stastny brothers (Remember there were three of them who owned Quebec City back in the 1980s?) is still keeping his hope alive that the NHL will someday return to Quebec.

You're probably thinking now, "Wow, that's awesome that Peter Stastny is behind this - this can't lose!"

Well, you're aiming a little high, but I like that as it's not Peter Stastny that is behind this.

"Well surely, its great that the next great Stastny brother, Anton, is behind such a movement - he was a great Nordique and makes a great ambassador for this as well!"

Sorry, try again.

"Marian Stastny? Wait...Marian Stastny is behind this? Wasn't he sent back to Bratislava as an embarassment to the family name?"

Considering that he's the last Stastny brother still making their home in Quebec City and the NHL hasn't been there in over ten years now - you might as well be right. Yes, the third and least successful of the professional skating Stastny brothers is the man with the big dreams and big ideas for the return of the NHL. This, however, was not the most amusing part of this story.

This was:

"I think a team will come here at some point," says Stastny. "But it will take
some kind of crisis in the NHL for the team to return here."

That crisis, Stastny says, would entail several U.S. teams going broke
simultaneously, an event that might force the NHL to retreat to hockey
strongholds north of the border.

Pardon me for a moment, because clearly Marian has not noticed who the Commissioner of the NHL is. Just one second here....


There, now I feel much better. I'm sorry Marian and to everyone in Quebec City still holding out a glimmer of hope for the return of the NHL (which according to the story, barely half of the respondents to a poll asking about the return of the NHL wanted it to come back) but it is never, ever, ever, ever, ever, never, ever, neever, never-nev going to happen. Ever.

Even with the US Dollar continuing to vomit on itself and the Canadian dollar having officially caught up to it for equal value, teams still won't come back to Canada because Herr Bettman sees it to be a losing move to return to the country where hockey has its staunchest and most rabid fanbase. Bettman could get a feasible plan in place for a team to return to Quebec City, sure, but the problems with taxation in Quebec continue to exist, Le ColiseƩ de Quebec is still the only hockey arena fit enough to hold an NHL team and it's antiquated by this point as even back in 1994 they were looking to build a new facility and couldn't get that going because the money didn't exist. And it still doesn't exist in Quebec.

In short, all this story has done is told us that in nearly 15 years since the Nordiques bolted town for Denver nothing at all has changed one bit. Quebec leadership still doesn't want to invest in a sports franchises and is even less willing to do so now that Herr Bettman already helped to get their beloved team taken from them. Who would ever trust this guy to do a legitimate pro-Canadian deal? The answer: No one. This, however, is all moot since there are no serious bidders or contenders to bring a team back to Quebec City.

So I guess this is what we call a paradox? Blustering about a story made out of nothing? Meh - par for the course here on the Interweb.

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