An NHL Franchise In Quebec City Remains A Fantasy

An NHL Franchise In Quebec City Remains A Fantasy

Shortly after the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, ESPN’s Jon Buccigross and Kevin Weekes made cryptic tweets raising speculation the 32-team league could expand into Houston and return to Atlanta.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly subsequently denied that the league had plans afoot for further expansion. He claimed it wasn’t a priority but didn’t rule out entertaining offers from groups that had interest, including those in Houston and Atlanta.

That prompted The Hockey News’ Adam Proteau to wonder if Quebec City would ever get an NHL franchise before Houston or Atlanta. While acknowledging Houston and Atlanta have the advantage in terms of market size, Proteau made the case for Quebec City to have a second chance at getting a team, citing its modern, publicly funded, 18,000-seat arena and deeply ingrained hockey culture.

Proteau acknowledged Quebec City’s market would be the league’s smallest with its population of 550,000 while the metro population of 800,000 would be the second-smallest. However, he also pointed out the Arizona Coyotes’ ongoing arena woes that have them skating in a 4,600-seat college arena while awaiting approval to construct a new venue in Tempe.

Centre Videotron in Quebec City (

He also pointed out that Quebec City, like the Winnipeg Jets, already has a built-in, ready-to-go fan base that would have little difficulty filling their building. He dismissed concerns over the language issue by pointing out that Quebec City worked fine before as an NHL city while Montreal has no issues as a bilingual hockey city.

Those are worthwhile arguments in Quebec City’s favor. It would certainly be more deserving than Atlanta, which has already failed twice as an NHL city thanks to the mismanagement of those previous franchises.

Sadly, however, those arguments will likely continue to fall on deaf ears at NHL headquarters. The league wants to continue expanding in the larger, lucrative US markets at the expense of smaller, hockey-mad Canadian cities.

It’s why Quebec City was passed over in favor of Las Vegas and Seattle. It’s why it will be passed over if a group in Houston is willing to pony up what’s likely to be a $1 billion expansion fee. It’s why there’s actually talk of a third attempt to establish an NHL presence in Atlanta. It’s why Kansas City and Portland stand a better chance at landing a franchise if someone with deep pockets wants to put an NHL club in either city.

It’s all about which markets can generate the most revenue, and Quebec City comes up short against Houston, Atlanta, Kansas City and Portland.

Getting an expansion team is a pipe dream for Quebec City. Their best hope for landing an NHL franchise is if an existing one is forced to relocate to a new city.

The Winnipeg Jets were resurrected in 2011 because the NHL needed a new location quickly when no one could be found to purchase the struggling Thrashers and keep them in Atlanta. Winnipeg’s True North Sports and Entertainment were the only viable alternative at the time.

The Arizona Coyotes could become a relocation candidate if their current owner fails to get approval for their Tempe arena project. With no other viable arena options, the franchise would have to be moved despite the NHL’s best efforts to keep it in Arizona.

Houston would be the most likely destination if the NHL finally waives the white flag on Arizona. Failing that, it would be Atlanta, Kansas City or Portland. Only if no suitable potential ownership group can be found in those cities would Quebec City get its chance.

The odds of that happening, however, seem quite long. As long as the NHL remains enamored of expanding into non-traditional hockey markets in its ongoing quest to “grow the game,” a natural hockey market like Quebec City will remain on the outside looking in.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2023

Anze Kopitar has a four-goal performance as the Kings reportedly ship Jonathan Quick to the Blue Jackets, the Wild acquire Gustav Nyquist, and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar scored four goals as his club overcame a 5-3 deficit to defeat the Winnipeg Jets 6-5. Adrian Kempe scored the winning goal in the shootout as the Kings improved to 34-20-8 to sit in second place in the Pacific Division with 76 points. Josh Morrissey scored two goals and collected two assists and Kevin Stenlund also tallied twice as the Jets (35-24-2) hold the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 72 points.

Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar (NHL Images).

The Boston Bruins picked up their eighth straight win by nipping the Calgary Flames 4-3 on an overtime goal by Charlie McAvoy. Linus Ullmark kicked out 54 shots while Dmitry Orlov scored twice and collected an assist for the 47-8-5 Bruins as they opened a 13-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the overall standings with 99 points. The Flames sank to 27-21-13 with 67 points to sit five back of the Jets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins forward Nick Foligno left the game with a leg injury in the second period following a questionable hit by Flames defenseman Nikita Zadorov.

Third-period goals by Sidney Crosby, Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust carried the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators for their third straight win. The Penguins (30-21-9) hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 69 points while the Predators dropped to 29-23-6 and sit seven points back of the Jets in the Western Conference.

A 39-save performance by Filip Gustavsson gave the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders with Frederick Gaudreau tallying the winner in the shootout. Ryan Reaves scored in regulation for the Wild as they improved to 34-21-6 to move into second place in the Central Division with 74 points. Josh Bailey tallied for the Islanders (31-25-8) as they hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 70 points.

The Seattle Kraken snapped a three-game losing skid by dropping the St. Louis Blues by a score of 5-3. Morgan Geekie scored twice and Martin Jones made 22 saves for his first win since Jan. 25 as the Kraken (33-21-6) hold third place in the Pacific Division with 72 points. Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich each had a goal and an assist as the Blues fell to 26-29-5.

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots in a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Eric Staal had a goal and an assist as the Panthers (30-26-6) sit three points behind the Penguins in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Brayden Point replied for the 37-19-4 Lightning as they sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 78 points.

The Ottawa Senators kept their playoff hopes alive by thumping the Detroit Red Wings 6-1. Austin Watson scored two goals and Tim Stutzle had a goal and two assists as the Senators improved to 30-26-4 (64 points) to sit five points out of the final Eastern wild-card spot. Dominik Kubalik scored for the Red Wings as they fell to 28-24-8 (64 points). Wings defenseman Filip Hronek left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Eric Robinson netted his first career NHL hat trick in a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Elvis Merzlikins turned aside 38 shots for the 20-35-6 Blue Jackets, who sat out goalie Joonas Korpisalo from this game for “trade-related reasons”. Jack Quinn had a goal and an assist for the 31-24-4 Sabres as they sit three points out of the final Eastern wild-card spot. Their home record has dropped to 12-16-2 on the season.

The Montreal Canadiens got a 38-save performance from Jake Allen to defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-1. Christian Dvorak had a goal and an assist for the 26-30-4 Canadiens while the Sharks sank to 18-31-12.

Arizona Coyotes forward Nick Schmaltz scored for the fourth straight game in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schmaltz and Clayton Keller each finished with two points for the 21-30-9 Coyotes. Andreas Athanasiou tallied for the 21-34-5 Blackhawks. The Coyotes held center Nick Bjugstad from this game for “trade-related reasons”.


DAILY FACEOFF: The Los Angeles Kings have reportedly traded goaltender Jonathan Quick and a 2023 first-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for goalie Joonas Korpisalo and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.

**UPDATE:  TSN’s Darren Dreger reports the Blue Jackets will receive a conditional first-round pick in 2023 and a third-round pick in 2024 as part of the return along with Quick. The condition on the first-rounder is based on the unlikely possibility of the Kings missing the playoffs this season.**

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report suggests there could be more pieces involved in this trade but the centerpiece of this deal is the Kings moving on from Quick while bringing in Korpisalo and Gavrikov.

Quick was the Kings’ long-time starter who backstopped them to the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. However, the pending free agent struggled this season which prompted this move to shore up their goaltending depth. Korpisalo has put solid numbers since December behind a porous Blue Jackets defense.

The Kings were in the market for a left-side defenseman and reportedly had an interest in the Arizona Coyotes’ Jakob Chychrun. The two clubs were said to have discussed a trade but those talks evidently fell through, forcing them to turn to Gavrikov. He lacks Chychrun’s offensive skills but plays a responsible defensive game.

As for the Blue Jackets, they get a first-round pick in this year’s draft and likely more assets to put toward rebuilding their roster. Quick, who was said to be unhappy about moving to one of the worst teams in the league, faces an uncertain future given his free-agent status on July 1 and the decline in his performance this season.

TSN: The Minnesota Wild acquired forward Gustav Nyquist from the Blue Jackets in exchange for a 2023 fifth-rounder.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nyquist remains sidelined by a shoulder injury but is expected to return to action before the playoffs. He’s an experience two-way forward with 53 points last season. His production declined this season but the Wild are gambling that he’ll regain his form in Minnesota.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks acquired the rights of prospect defenseman Henry Thrun from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2024 third-round pick. The Sharks have until Aug. 15 to sign Thrun to an entry-level contract or he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: The Red Wings signed defenseman Jake Walman to a three-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $3.4 million. He was slated to become a UFA on July 1.

WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: The Capitals signed defenseman Nick Jensen to a three-year deal worth an AAV of $4.05 million.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller receive a three-game suspension for spitting on Kings defenseman Drew Doughty on Sunday.

TSN: Dallas Stars defenseman Colin Miller was fined $5,000.00 for elbowing Vancouver Canucks center Nils Aman. Canucks defenseman Christian Wolanin was fined over $2,000.00 for slashing Stars forward Ty Dellandrea.

DAILY FACEOFF: The Anaheim Ducks claimed defenseman Scott Harrington off waivers from the New Jersey Devils. Harrington was acquired by the Devils along with Timo Meier on Sunday.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins placed forward Brock McGinn and defenseman Mark Friedman on waivers.

TSN: The NHL sent a memo to teams yesterday indicating they will be closely scrutinizing trades involving injured players who are acquired with the intent of keeping them on long-term injury reserve until the playoffs. The league isn’t banning such moves outright but wishes to ensure such moves don’t circumvent the salary cap.

Don’t Expect The NHLPA To Change Under Its New Executive Director

Don’t Expect The NHLPA To Change Under Its New Executive Director

Reports last week indicated the NHL Players Association is set to hire Marty Walsh to replace Donald Fehr as their executive director. Walsh, 55, is currently the US Secretary of Labor, the former mayor of Boston and the former head of Boston’s Laborers’ Union.

Adam Proteau, my colleague at The Hockey News, is skeptical that Walsh’s impending hiring signals a tougher stance by the PA in negotiations with the NHL and its commissioner, Gary Bettman. He anticipated that the status quo will continue with the players lacking the stomach for a new labor war.

Perhaps Walsh will surprise us and mobilize the players for a more robust bout of negotiations when the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires at the end of the 2025-26 season. However, I concur with Proteau’s take that this is unlikely to happen.

There are no more radicals left in the NHLPA. Bettman crushed them all during the season-killing lockout of 2004-05. Apart from a handful of outspoken personalities such as player agent Allan Walsh, there are no firebrands among the players or their representatives demanding radical changes to the CBA.

A small handful of players (Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Minnesota’s Marc-Andre Fleury, Carolina’s Brent Burns, Florida’s Eric Staal, Buffalo’s Craig Anderson) remain in the NHL from that nuclear winter of ’04-’05. They were mere rookies back then who probably didn’t fully understand what the labor standoff was about. Given their status at that time, they would’ve had little say about the PA’s direction during that labor battle.

Many of the players at that time had been around for the seismic shift in the PA during the late-1980s and early-1990s, from the ouster of Alan Eagleson to the hiring of Bob Goodenow as executive director, through their successful strike in 1992 and the 1994-95 lockout in which the NHL owners caved despite the objections of Bettman.

The bruising smackdown Bettman and the NHL owners laid on the NHLPA was devastating. It resulted in several years of upheaval and changes in the PA leadership until the players hired Donald Fehr as executive director.

While the issues that led to the 2012-13 lockout weren’t as contentious as in ’04-’05, it was clear there wasn’t as much fight among the players going into that standoff as there was in 2004.

The ’12-’13 standoff could be considered a draw. Nevertheless, it showed that the veteran players who’d been around during the season-killing lockout of ’04-’05 didn’t want to risk losing another season. In the end, they settled.

Many of the players who were part of the last lockout are now at the tail end of their NHL careers or playing out their remaining days in Europe or retired. Those who entered the league since 2013 have displayed no indication that they’re prepared to dig in for a contentious battle with the league in the next round of collective bargaining.

Today’s NHLPA membership may have concerns over certain aspects of the salary cap. They may hate escrow with the intensity of a thousand suns. They could wish to end contract term limits. They could demand more Olympic participation.

None of it matters, however, if they aren’t willing to fight for it.

The players may grumble about escrow clawbacks but they aren’t willing to upset the applecart regarding labor relations with the league. There are no public calls for a change to the current salary-cap system and no demands to replace it with a luxury tax. They’re not threatening to decertify the union, turning all the players into unrestricted free agents able to negotiate with any team they choose.

Prior to the pandemic, the league and the PA engaged in cordial discussions about extending the CBA with some minor adjustments. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic in 2020 led to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that extended the agreement to 2026.

The league didn’t want anything endangering negotiations for lucrative new broadcasting, gambling and streaming deals. Meanwhile, the players didn’t want to jeopardize their chances for lucrative new contracts via free agency.

As for Shaw, he isn’t simply an empty suit filling the PA role. He’ll counsel the players on the issues and seek the best way of addressing their concerns. He’ll also take point in any negotiations with Bettman like Fehr before him.

But at the end of the day, as Proteau pointed out, he’s limited by the players. If they’re unwilling to fight the current system (and by the look of things, they are) he’ll simply have to work within it and accept things as they are. 

Bobby Hull 1939-2023

Bobby Hull 1939-2023

Hall of Famer Bobby Hull passed away on Jan. 30, 2023. He was 84.

Hull spent 15 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks from 1957-58 to 1971-72, becoming one of the greatest scorers in NHL history.

Ruggedly handsome with a megawatt smile and a muscular physique from years of farm labor while growing up near Belleville, Ontario, Hull was nicknamed “The Golden Jet” for his blonde hair, blazing speed and booming shot. He was the NHL’s biggest star through most of the 1960s until Bobby Orr’s ascension to superstardom toward the end of that decade.

Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Hull (

His breakout season was in 1959-60 when he won his first Art Ross Trophy with 39 goals and 81 points in 70 games and was named to the First All-Star Team. The following season, he helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. He would also lead them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1962, 1965 and 1971.

From 1961-62 to 1971-72, Hull took home the Art Ross twice more (1961-62, 1965-66), was a two-time winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy (1964-65, 1965-66), and was the winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 1964-65.

During that period, he led the league in goals six times, including four years in a row from 1965-66 to 1968-69. He was also named to the First All-Star Team nine times and the Second Team twice.

Hull had his first 50-goal season in 1961-62. He became the first player to score over 50 goals in 1965-66 with 54. He reached 52 the following season and broke his own record with 58 in 1968-69, which stood until Phil Esposito’s 76-goal performance in 1970-71.

In 1972, Hull made history by leaving the Blackhawks following a contract dispute to sign a $1 million deal with the Winnipeg Jets of the upstart World Hockey Association. A number of NHL stars quickly followed Hull to the rival league, which led to a significant, long-overdue increase in player salaries.

Hull’s presence gave the WHA respectability and helped ensure its survival until it was taken over by the NHL at the end of the 1978-79 season. He paid a price for jumping to the rival league as he was barred by the NHL from playing for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series with the Soviet Union. He would play for a team of WHA stars in an eight-game series with the Soviets in 1974 and was the only WHA player on Team Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup.

During his tenure with the WHA, Hull was named to the First All-Star Team three times and the Second Team twice. He was the league’s MVP in 1972-73 and 1974-75, scoring a league-leading 77 goals in ’74-’75.

After retiring in 1979, Hull returned to the NHL with the Jets in 1979-80, playing 18 games until traded to the Hartford Whalers where he skated for nine more before retiring again. He attempted a comeback with the New York Rangers in 1981 for five exhibition games before hanging up his skates for good.

Hull finished his NHL career with 604 goals and 1,153 points in 1,036 games. He also tallied 303 goals and 638 points in 411 WHA games. He and his son, Hall-of-Famer Brett Hull, are the only father and son in NHL history to each score 600 or more career NHL goals.

Hull had a reputation during his playing days for being kind and generous to his fans, often keeping the team bus waiting while he patiently signed autographs. However, there was a dark side to his private life that has cast a dark shadow over his career.

In the book “The Devil and Bobby Hull”, sportswriter Gare Joyce chronicled not only Hull’s hockey accomplishments but also his alcohol abuse and the physical and mental abuse of two of his three wives. His daughter, Michelle, works with battered women as a result of witnessing her father abusing her mother. He also made racist remarks during an interview with a Russian news outlet in 1998 that he subsequently denied.

Hull leaves behind a mixed legacy. On the ice, he was a great player who still holds the Blackhawks’ single-season goal record (58) and the all-time goals record (604). However, his behavior off the ice and unrepentant attitude over his transgressions tarnished his once golden reputation.

My condolences to his family, friends and former teammates.

Does Anyone Really Care About The NHL All-Star Game?

Does Anyone Really Care About The NHL All-Star Game?

Last week, the NHL announced its 32 players (one from each club) as its initial selections for the 2023 All-Star Game in Sunrise, Florida, on Feb. 4. The fans will get to vote on three other players from each division to round the All-Star rosters.

Following the announcement, Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella was asked what he thought about Flyers forward Travis Konecny not being named to the Metropolitan Division lineup.

I don’t even worry about that s**t,” replied Tortorella. “The whole team, the whole weekend, I don’t even watch it. I think it’s turned into a …well, I’ll just leave it at that. I really don’t care.”

It wouldn’t be shocking if most NHL coaches and players share Tortorella’s opinion about the All-Star Game. I can’t speak for other pundits, bloggers or hockey fans but I stopped caring about it a long time ago.

The last NHL All-Star Game that drew my interest was in 2016. That was the year when the fans, irrepressible scamps that you are, voted for long-time enforcer John Scott to be part of the Pacific Division roster.

John Scott at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game (

NHL HQ attempted to prevent Scott, then a member of the Arizona Coyotes, from participating in its All-Star Game. After declining to bow out when asked to do so by the league and the Coyotes, he was demoted to the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate and then traded to the Montreal Canadiens, who immediately sent him to their AHL club.

That prompted a considerable outcry from fans and pundits about a conspiracy to keep Scott out of the All-Star Game, garnering headlines and becoming an embarrassment for the NHL. The league eventually relented and it became one of the feel-good sports stories of the year.

Supported by his All-Star teammates and opponents, Scott stole the show. He scored two goals in the tournament and captained the Pacific Division to the All-Star championship. He was also named tournament MVP as a write-in candidate and received a standing ovation from the fans.

Since then, the league has taken steps to ensure the fans don’t stuff the ballot box with other write-in candidates it considers unworthy of participating in its All-Star showcase.

The fact that Scott’s story made the 2016 NHL All-Star Game the most memorable and entertaining in years spoke volumes about the irrelevance of this annual event.

It’s been decades since the NHL All-Star Game mattered. Players have stopped taking it seriously, preferring not to risk injury in a meaningless contest. Most of them seem to look forward to the All-Star break as a welcome midseason break in a long, grueling 82-game schedule.

Those not selected for the game take the opportunity to head to sunny climes with family and friends for a little vacation. In the not-too-distant past, some of those chosen to participate tried to back out until the league began threatening multi-game suspensions for those who failed to show up for reasons other than injury or family emergencies.

Over the past three decades, the NHL has tried different formats to make the game more entertaining while providing players more incentive to take them seriously. The amount of money awarded to the winning team was significantly increased. Skills competitions the day prior to the game have become a staple of the All-Star weekend.

While some of these changes have sparked varying degrees of curiosity from fans, it really hasn’t improved the quality of play once the puck drops on the All-Star game itself. It remains glorified pond hockey with bloated scores and little defensive effort.

When the players don’t care, why should the fans?

Whatever city hosts the NHL All-Star Game seems to get some benefit from it as local fans turn out to see all the league’s best players in one place at the same time. None of this, however, generates much of a television audience in Canada and the United States compared to the all-star contests of professional baseball or basketball.

The NHL won’t scrap this event, of course. If it’s to be taken seriously as a major North American sports league it needs an all-star game to showcase its best talent. At least, that’s the story it seems to tell itself.

Most hockey fans probably wouldn’t miss the All-Star Game if it one day disappeared forever from the NHL calendar. Few lamented its absence whenever it was canceled by lockouts, pandemics, or the Olympics. It’s unlikely there would be many tears shed if this year’s event didn’t take place except for those who paid to go see it.

When it comes to NHL All-Star competitions, hockey fans seem to prefer international tournaments such as the Winter Olympics or the World Cup of Hockey. Those games are more meaningful because there’s a lot more on the line.

Until those events come around again, we’re stuck with a meaningless spectacle played by disinterested All-Stars that only strikes a chord with fans whenever there are shenanigans with the selection process.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

First, I must acknowledge that hockey history occurred on Friday night.  Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored two goals in a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets to move past Gordie Howe into second place on the all-time NHL goals list with 802. He sits 92 goals behind leader Wayne Gretzky. That game was one of 11 played on Dec. 23 before the NHL holiday break from Dec. 24 to 26.

I am also on my annual holiday break. The next update to this site will be Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022. Happy holidays, everyone!