BRUSSELS - With apologies to Winnipeg, former Quebec Nordiques great Peter Stastny says Quebec City should have been first to see the return of NHL hockey.
Stastny even admits he was less than thrilled to learn that the Manitoba capital got an NHL club before Quebec City.
"Personally, I was sad," Stastny said Wednesday, adding that Quebec was more deserving of the distinction.
Stastny, 54, made the remarks in Brussels, in a scrum with Quebec political reporters who were following Premier Jean Charest during a European politcal tour.
Stastny, who spent 10 of his 16 NHL seasons playing in Quebec, is now a member of the European Parliament for Slovakia.
He told reporters that he remains convinced Quebec City will get an NHL team back — and quickly.
"It will happen sooner than many people think," Stastny said.
For his part, Charest said he was optimistic that Quebec City's arena project will go ahead.
Charest wandered into Stastny's press scrum at one point and offered the old hockey star an informal invitation back to La Vieille Capitale.
"We could go to the first game of the Nordiques together!" Charest quipped.
Despite Stastny's assessment, Winnipeg had several advantages over its Quebec rival.
The Manitoba capital has a larger population and a completed, modern arena — built mainly with private cash.
Quebec has a population of 491,000 (compared with Winnipeg's 633,000), and groundbreaking has yet to begin on an arena to be constructed entirely with public money.