Memories of the Nordiques
QUEBEC CITY—There were entire rows of fans wearing Team Finland jerseys, or Swedish jerseys or Russian red numbers. Even a few Czech uniforms here and there, and — of course — lots of Team Canada regalia.
But the most interesting garb sported by hundreds of fans today for the semifinals at the 2008 World Hockey Championships were blue t-shirts given away by a local radio station with "J'y Crois (I Believe)" in red letters across the chest, referencing the hope of some in La Vieille Capital for a return of the NHL some day.
Across the shoulders read "Ville de Hockey," and the shirts were eagerly snapped up by fans outside Le Colisee before the 1 p.m. Finland-Russia game, either because they were popular or because they were free.
One sign in the building read "Monsieur Bettman: No More Teams in the Desert!", but 13 years after the Nordiques left for Denver there still seems little chance of the NHL returning to Quebec City until somebody is willing to build a new arena.
The 15,000-seat Colisee has been a nice fit for this event, but wouldn't even be close to the standard of current NHL rinks, other than Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, perhaps. There's no air-conditioning, no luxury boxes and one elevator. Still, it's a great place to watch a hockey game, a throwback to the old days when most NHL rinks were smaller, each with their own idiosyncrasies and personalities.
The rink was about two-thirds full today for the Finns and Russians, with a full house expected for Canada-Sweden at 5 p.m. today.