About the potential revival of the Nordiques, one of the effects might be that it increases interest in hockey in the Province of Québec. Although that may seem unthinkable with the media saturation coverage of the Canadiens and the NHL to a lesser extent on RDS, TVA Sports, TSN 690, The Gazette, La Presse and Le Journal de Montréal to name just the heavy hitters, there might now exist a lassitude, a significant number of fans who could be engaged further.
I used to be a baseball fan until the fishtail end of the Expos. Now I make it a point of pride to ignore baseball news and coverage, I fast-forward over that when I watch SportsCentre. Similarly, there may be a number of disaffected Nordiques fans who’ll ‘rejoin’ the NHL with a return to action of their team. Local families who may think of the Canadiens as a team from ‘away’ might now jump in with a team in their backyard that represents them.
Also, the rivalry bordering on hostility may be a stimulus for more eyeballs, more hearts and minds. Similar to elections with no great stakes in the balance that see a low voter turnout, compared to those where fundamental issues are in question, and every voter feels more affected.
I used to discount talking heads who’d pronounce about Bobby Orr or Jean Béliveau that he was “one of a kind” and “we won’t see anyone like him again.” To me, as a kid, that seemed silly, there was always a new crop of greats to replace the older ones, one look at the record books proved that. Sure, there was no Bobby Orr that succeeded Bobby Orr, exactly, but there was Brad Park, our Larry Robinson, Denis Potvin, Paul Coffey. There was no other Jean Béliveau, but Gilbert Perreault was mighty good, and that kid Mario Lemieux might be just as good.
Same in every sport, sure Jim Brown, I never saw him play, but I could see his stats, but then O.J. Simpson came, and Hershel Walker would break all their records, and/or that kid Marcus Dupree, and then shortly after Emmitt Smith and/or Carlos Snow would obliterate those.
Now I understand more what they meant when they said that, there isn’t an inexhaustible supply of Wayne Gretzkys coming down the pipe, you enjoy them when you can.
And if we want to see more Gilbert Perreaults and Mario Lemieux and Pierre Turgeons and Vincent Lecavaliers, it has to come from a thriving minor hockey system, which by all reports of declining enrollment and parental suspicions about the risks and benefits of the game, we don’t have right now.
I wager that the return of the Nordiques would play a significant role in engaging families and youngsters in the game of hockey, and not only as spectators but participants, in minor hockey and rec league play. And that will be better for the game of hockey, and better for the Canadiens too.
And speaking of French-speaking coaches and stocking the pond, the Norfolk Admirals have promoted Éric Veilleux to the head coach position. Here’s a guy who won a Memorial Cup with les Cataractes and made the Finals of la Coupe du Président twice more with the Drakkar. He never missed the playoffs while coaching in the LHJMQ.