Depending on how the respective Phoenix Coyotes and Atlanta Thrashers sales go, it’s quite possible that there could be two NHL teams on the move. If you take Gary Bettman’s comments about the Coyotes at face value, Winnipeg seems like the odds-on favorite to “make it seven” Canadian cities with a NHL team.
Yet that hasn’t stopped the City of Quebec from pushing hard for the return of the Nordiques (or at least another NHL squad) as well. While politicians push to build an expensive NHL-ready arena on the backs of taxpayers, grassroots campaigns by the group Nordiques Nation might provide an impressive showing of support in a more personal way.
Back on December 11th, Quebec area radio personality Vincent Cauchon managed to convince approximately 1,100 people to travel to Long Island for an Atlanta Thrashers-New York Islanders game to announce just how passionate the idle fan base could be. Even if Cauchon meant it as more of a statement about the Thrashers than the Islanders, the message was clear. If fans were willing to take a big chunk of the seats all the way away from home at an Islanders game, imagine how many would show up for a game in Quebec?
Cauchon and the Nordiques Nation hopes to make yet another statement on the final night of the 2010-11 regular season, as they plan to bring more than 2,000 fans to Newark for a Boston Bruins-New Jersey Devils game. The New York Times Slap Shot blog reports that 1,600 people will make the trip via 31 buses while 500 people will travel on their own.
“We just want to show the N.H.L. that Quebec needs a team and is a better market; maybe a third of the markets in the N.H.L. aren’t doing so well right now,” Cauchon said.
Cauchon said last week that the trip to Newark had “the same goal, in the same peaceful way, just to let people know we won’t give up and we are the best crowd with our team.”
When it comes to statements of minor protest, these are as peaceful – yet still persuasive – as they come. It’s true that the Devils aren’t a moribund franchise from an on-ice success perspective. Yet without getting too in-depth with attendance statistics that aren’t always 100 percent reliable, let’s just say their consistent winning ways haven’t consistently generated the greatest level of passion from fans in New Jersey and its surrounding areas.
Even with the playoffs being unlikely, the fact that more than 2,000 fans – not just out of the state but out of the country – could organize a pilgrimage to New Jersey for the final game of the regular season says a lot.
If you ask the Nordiques Nation, it would be tough to imagine 2,000 seats going unattended if they ever get their team back.