Quebec City has announced plans for a new arena Friday in order to facilitate an NHL return to the city and one day hosting a Winter Olympics.
Mayor Regis Labeaume said Friday that he's hired engineering firm SNC Lavalin to conduct a feasibility study. He hopes to see the arena built from 2010 to 2012.
Labeaume expects the arena to cost $400 million, with the city contributing $50 million to the project. He wants the federal and provincial governments to each pony up $175 million under infrastructure programs.
The mayor said Quebec City is at a "crossroads" and a new, multi-purpose 18,000 facility is a must. "We can't be an Olympic candidate city without it; we can't hope to realize a dream of the NHL returning without it."
Labeaume, along with former Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut, met in New York with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly last week and said at the time the talks were “fruitful,” but were not promised a team, saying a new arena is not a guarantee of an NHL return.
"The purpose of (last week's) meeting was a heads up for what was coming," Daly told NHL.com Friday. "What was said is perfectly consistent with what we heard from Mayer Labeaume and Marcel Aubut."
Daly said there were "obviously no commitments or guarantees" during the meeting with the League. He explained that changes in the League's collective bargaining agreement are "more friendly to middle-revenue markets" and that a state-of-the-art arena is the "foundation of any potential return to the NHL" for any city.
"It's funny," Bettman told the Toronto Sun. "People now say in both of those markets that there is more outcry now than there was (when the Nordiques and Jets moved) because everyone understood what happened because there were no plans for new arenas. Because there were concerns about corporate support, both teams had no choice because nobody wanted to own those teams in those markets any more. And when nobody wants to own the team, there is no choice but to move it."
Bettman says he met with Labeaume "because he asked for a meeting and we were interested in what he had to say."
The Quebec Nordiques, who first played in the defunct World Hockey Association, played from 1979 through 1995 before the team moved to Colorado and became the Avalanche.
"I'm sure there are people in Quebec City who would say if a team is moving to Canada, why should it be southern Ontario? Why shouldn't we get a team back?" Bettman told Mike Zeisberger of the Sun in an interview published Friday. "I'm sure there are people in Winnipeg who are saying the same thing. If the Coyotes move, I'm sure they say, "Why aren't the Coyotes coming back here now that we have a new arena?" And so, there will always be a debate as to where the right fit is.
"But to the extent people think I have this master list hanging on my office wall in terms of where we are going next, that is not the case. You can confirm for yourself ... there is no list on my wall. Search away, You can look in all the drawers also.
"If the opportunity presents itself, then we will look at all the situations and try to make the best judgment.
Bettman insisted that despite the bankruptcy hearings regarding the future of the Phoenix Coyotes
and the League's desire to keep the team in Arizona, he is not anti-Canadian when it comes to locating franchises.
"For anyone that knows my record in respect to the Canadian franchises, that's simply not true," he told The Sun. "I can't satisfy those who believe our intentions were other than straightforward of ensuring NHL rules and procedure. That's what this was about."
Zeisberger asked if the door was open to Canada.
"The door has always been open," Bettman said. "What I've said consistently is, not that we plan on relocating, but if we relocate or if we expand, we are going to consider all of the opportunities in Canada that should be considered, assuming people want to own franchises in any one of the possible markets."
Asked what his message would be to those Canadian communities longing for an NHL team, Bettman told Zeisberger his message is simple: Patience.
"One of the great tragedies that happened over the summer with respect to the Coyotes and Hamilton and, before that, with respect to the Predators and Hamilton, is that expectations were built up," Bettman says. "I don't want to do that to people.
"The fact is, the lines of communications are open. We understand the possibilities but we're not in position to make any promises at this time other than: If we're going to be in a situation either by relocation or expansion where a franchise is a possibility, these are markets that are going to be looked at seriously."