SBD/Issue 64/Franchises

Quebec Hockey Fans Invade Nassau Coliseum To Push For NHL Club

Nordiques Fans Held Signs, Waved Flags At Isles
Game To Show Support For Team In Quebec

About 1,100 fans "traveled over 550 miles from Quebec City to watch the Islanders fall 5-4 to the Thrashers" at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, according to Anthony Affrunti of the N.Y. POST. The Quebec "faithful, who lost their beloved Nordiques in 1995, were out in force wearing their old blue sweaters." Some held signs and banners and "chanted in French and English." They were "just a small part of the 70,000-person fans group up north known as Nordiques Nation that has been in existence for almost a year." CHOI-FM sports radio host Vincent Cauchon was the "brains behind" the trip. He "wants to make it known that the Nordiques supporters aren't planning to take the Islanders ... away from Long Island, but that there are other teams better suited to move to stronger hockey markets." Cauchon: "We're not here to pick up a team. We're here to express our love of hockey and the NHL. It's important to me that NHL players play in front of big crowds." Affrunti noted plans are "in the works to build a new arena in Quebec," and "without it chances are slim to none for an NHL franchise to return" to the city (N.Y. POST, 12/12).

SHOWING THEIR SUPPORT: FANHOUSE.com's Kevin Schultz noted the fans from Quebec "were jubilant and cheered for the hometown Islanders, as they had said they would." The group "counted down from ten to zero in French before cheering for at least 30-seconds each time" (FANHOUSE.com, 12/11). In N.Y., Jeff Klein noted the Islanders in the second period "showed a photo of Quebec City as the public address announcer said the team offered a 'welcome Quebec fans.'" With five minutes to play in the game, all the Quebec fans "walked down to the lower bowl behind the Atlanta net and stood and cheered and waved provincial flags through the rest of regulation in an impressive display of passion" (NYTIMES.com, 12/11). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in an e-mail said, "No one has ever doubted the passion of hockey fans in Quebec City." ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote, "Call me a sucker, but this again shows me there should again be NHL hockey in Quebec City" (ESPN.com, 12/11).

TIME TO MOVE ON? On Long Island, Katie Strang noted the demonstration "comes at a time when the Islanders seem to be hitting rock bottom -- ranking 29th in attendance and facing the death of the team owner Charles Wang's massive plan for a new arena, the Lighthouse Project." Islanders GM Garth Snow before Saturday's game said there was "nothing new to report" on the team's pursuit of a new arena. Snow: "We're here through 2015 and we're going to honor the lease" (NEWSDAY, 12/12). Meanwhile, in Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont noted the Thrashers "remain in the hunt for a playoff spot," but by a "look at the anemic gate at Philips Arena, on-ice success might not be enough to win over the long-disappointed locals." Dupont: "Look for rumors to persist that both Quebec City and Winnipeg will try to woo them north" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/12).  

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