Times have changed for the NHL, and Canada now finds itself poised to lure NHL teams back to the Great White North.
About a week ago, Quebec City’s mayor announced plans to build a $400 million arena for, among other reasons, luring an NHL team back to Quebec’s capital, which has been without an NHL team since the Nordiques bolted for Denver in 1995.
The Nordiques were just one of a number of franchises looking for greener pastures in the south during the mid-1990s. The Hartford Whalers, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota North Stars all left northern cities for southern ones. Expansion franchises popped up in Miami, and later in Atlanta and Nashville.
But with the Canadian dollar gaining strength, the tables have turned in the NHL. And now these cities which lost teams due to the then-weakening dollar are in better shape to get their teams back.
The question is whether or not the league and commissioner Gary Bettman will have a change in philosophy about the league. The shift in teams during that decade was a part of the NHL’s bigger picture. These teams left behind hockey-crazed cities with smaller populations for bigger markets that lacked familiarity with the sport.
The league tried to broaden its reach, hoping bigger markets meant bigger dollars.
Has it worked? In a word, I’d say "no." Many teams are struggling throughout the league, but mostly in the southern half of the USA.
Hockey, to me, is mostly a regional sport. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just hard to expect cities that lack ice, that lack hockey on the college and high school levels, to latch on the NHL.