QUEBEC — Listening to coach Michel Therrien before the Montreal Canadiens’ game at the new Videotron centre on Monday night, it was like the Quebec Nordiques were already back in the NHL.
And he would welcome reviving an old rivalry with them.
“Hockey has changed,” Therrien said before the Canadiens faced the Pittsburgh Penguins in pre-season action. “I’d be surprised if disgraceful incidents like the Good Friday (brawl) game in the old days would happen now.
“I hope not. It will be a healthy rivalry like we have with the Boston Bruins or the Toronto Maple Leafs and, the way it’s been growing in recent years, with the Ottawa Senators. It’ll be fun.”
Therrien grew up a Canadiens fan in Montreal, but he admitted to having a soft spot for the Nordiques in their early years in 1980-81, when he played junior hockey with the Quebec Remparts and used to bump into stars like Michel Goulet, Marc Tardif and Real Cloutier.
It was the first NHL game at the new 18,259-seat rink built next door to the old Colisee where the Nordiques skated in the NHL from 1979 until the team left for Colorado to become the Avalanche in 1995.
Quebec City and Las Vegas have applied for expansion franchises, but the NHL has yet to decide if it will add a new team or two.
Therrien said having a team back in Quebec City is inevitable, and he was impressed with the new rink.
“It’s a first class facility,” he said.
He also said it would help bring more for French-speaking coaches and managers into the NHL, as it did when the Nordiques played. It could also bring more French-Canadian players into the league.
Canadiens centre David Desharnais, a native of the Quebec City area, is aware he will be less welcome in his home town if it had its own NHL club, but he’s not bothered by that.
“The fans in Quebec want their Nordiques back,” said Desharnais. “I think it will happen.”
Robert Laflamme, The Canadian Press