Quebecor makes pitch to NHL in hopes of landing franchise

NEW YORK — After months of preparation, the heads of media giant Quebecor Inc. said Tuesday they have done everything in their power to bring back a National Hockey League team to Quebec City.

After making their pitch to the NHL’s executive committee, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said the presentation is now in the hands of the league.

“The governors will make their own decision,” Mulroney, who is chairman of the board of Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B), said in a brief news conference in New York.

“It’s their process and we’re just following the process and we’ll be advised at the appropriate time.”

Tuesday’s presentation was the third step of the expansion process for Quebecor, the company behind the plan to bring back a team to Quebec City.

The NHL executive committee — made up of owners of 10 NHL teams — also heard a pitch Tuesday by a group led by billionaire businessman Bill Foley, who wants to bring a team to Las Vegas.

The executive committee reported to the league’s board of governors later Tuesday. Commissioner Gary Bettman said each group presented to the committee “in excess of an hour,” but reiterated that the league is still not ready to make any decisions on expansion.

“This is an ongoing process that doesn’t have a specific timetable, and doesn’t have a predetermined outcome,” he told reporters Tuesday.

The league chose Quebec City and Las Vegas to make presentations out of 16 expansion applicants.

An NHL franchise in Vegas would be the first in the city for any of North America’s major sports leagues.

Quebecor’s pitch focused on four themes: the owner, the new stadium, the business plan and the viability of Quebec City’s market for hockey.

Mulroney and Quebecor CEO Pierre Dion wanted to make sure Bettman and the rest of the committee appreciated that the economy of the provincial capital is much stronger than it was in 1995, when the Nordiques packed up and left for Colorado.

Dion wouldn’t say when the NHL would be ready to make a decision.

“It’s in the hands of the league,” he said. “We will continue to be discreet and patient.”

He added that Monday night’s game in Quebec City’s new arena between the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins gave their argument some weight.

Quebecor’s presentation included footage from the game, which attracted a crowd of more than 18,000 people to the recently inaugurated Videotron Centre.

Bettman was asked about the footage that was shown from Monday night’s game.

“There is no doubt it’s a wonderful building and there are great hockey fans in Quebec City but making a decision (on expansion) has to go beyond that,” he said.

Bettman said earlier this month the league is “not feeling any timeline pressure” in the expansion process and has proposed an expansion fee of US$500 million — a significant jump from the $80 million fee paid by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild, when the NHL last expanded to 30 teams in 2000.

It is expected to take at least two years before the NHL would potentially expand to 32 teams.

The Canadian Press