|More than 700 hockey fans made their way from Quebec City to cheer for the Red Wings Saturday and to lobby for an NHL franchise. (Photo by Dave Reginek) |
If the objective was to be seen – and heard – the large group clad in blue T-shirts and jerseys adorned with fleur-de-lis emblems, sure got their message across to the nationally televised audience at a sold-out Joe Louis Arena on Saturday afternoon.
More than 700 fans of the former Nordiques organization made the exhausting 725-mile road trip from Quebec on 14 busses to attend the Red Wings season finale – a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Genevieve Malenfant, of Quebec City, said the group known as Nordiques Nation, wants the NHL to return to the capital city, which is the second most populated city in Quebec after Montreal.
“I’m here for my Wings, of course,” said Malenfant, decked out in Red Wings’ gear. “But we are here because we want to have our team, the Nordiques, like we did 17 years ago. We want to have our hockey team back in Quebec.”
According to Richard Levesque, who attended Saturday’s game with his son, Detroit was the fifth and final NHL city on the group’s North American tour this season, having also visited Newark, Miami, Ottawa and Boston.
“We like for the Red Wings Detroit to win the game,” said Levesque, in a thick French accent, “but we’re having some fun.”
The Nordiques are the only major professional sports team to have been based in Quebec City, calling it home from 1972 when they started out in the World Hockey Association. In 1995, the Nordiques were granted membership into the NHL, however, financial troubles made it difficult for them to complete in a new age of rising player salaries, and they moved to the United States where they became the Colorado Avalanche.
Many members of the boisterous group said that they believe the Nordiques will return soon, and in the form of the Phoenix Coyotes, who’ve been owned by the NHL since 2009.
“For myself, I would say next year, but for the majority of the people here, even my boyfriend, they’ll say in these coming few months. But for sure I’ll say next year because they’re building a big arena and it will be ready in two years in 2015.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose