Bettman: Quebec City application deferred due to ‘volatility’ of Canadian dollar, ‘geographic imbalance’

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Hockey fans hoping for a return of an NHL franchise to Quebec City will have to wait for another time.

Speaking to reporters as the NHL announced its expansion to Las Vegas, commissioner Gary Bettman said the application of Quebec City has been deferred due to two resounding factors — the “volatility” of the Canadian dollar and “geographical imbalance” between the Eastern and Western Conferences.

This decision doesn’t close the door completely on possible future expansion into Quebec City.

In his opening remarks at Wednesday’s press conference, Bettman praised the passion for hockey in Quebec City, the “suitability” of the Videotron Center and the prospective ownership group Quebecor.

Pierre Dion, CEO of Quebecor, was on hand for the press conference.

“These components, the ones within the control of the Quebec City applicant are first-rate and I want to thank former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Pierre Dion of Quebecor for the thoroughness of their application and their cooperation throughout this process,” said Bettman.

Yeah, but . . .

“The decision to defer, however, was based on elements over which Quebec City . . . had no control whatsoever. Significantly, the fluctuation of the Canadian dollar throughout the process, including its decline to a low of 68 cents this year was a factor,” said Bettman.

“Unfortunately the state and volatility of the Canadian dollar undermined the achievement of that objective relative to the Quebec City. Moreover, the league’s geographic imbalance with 16 teams already in the Eastern Conference and 14 — now to be 15 — teams in the Western Conference undermined the achievement of that objective relative to Quebec City’s application, as well.”

It was interesting, prior to the beginning of the press conference, to see Dion as part of the list of speakers at the podium. But any speculation or curiosity about his attendance was quickly put to rest.

He was gracious in congratulating Bill Foley in getting an NHL team in Las Vegas, but said bringing the Nordiques back is a “priority” for Quebecor.

“As you all know, we love the game. We will continue to work with determination to achieve this goal,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing the discussion with the NHL.”

Later on, Bettman said the expansion team in this process needed to be in the West.

Bettman also shot down the idea of relocation to Quebec City. There’s been speculation the Carolina Hurricanes could relocate, however Bettman said at the time, “I don’t see the Hurricanes relocating, period.”

“There are no teams in the NHL that are planning on relocation, so that’s not something that anybody should be counting on or focusing on,” he said.

Related: Mulroney: Quebec City may have to wait for expansion team