Looking Back at Canada's Last Stanley Cup Champion...(sort of)

CH. 2- The Avs' Dynasty; and Looking ahead to a Return of Les Nordiques

There were 2 main inspirations that lead me to writing this article. Firstly, the 20-year anniversary of the wackiest Finals matchup in NHL history, and what could have been Canada’s most recent Stanley Cup championship.   

The other inspiration was the amazing uniforms pictured above that most hockey fans likely have never seen.  If the Nordiques had stayed in Quebec City, hockey fans likely would have seen an NHL team featuring these jerseys hoist the Stanley Cup at some point between 1997 and 2006.

Prior to the Nordiques’ decision that they would relocate to Colorado, the team announced in Quebec City newspapers during the summer of 1995, that the team would undergo a re-branding and completely change their logo, uniforms and color-scheme. The new color-scheme would be navy blue, teal, and black. The team’s new logo would feature a Siberian husky, and the iconic ‘fleur-de-lis’ symbol would still be kept as part of the team’s identity and become the shoulder-patch on the new uniforms.

Interestingly, the Nordiques filed the logo and uniform changes ‘late’ according to the NHL’s deadline, and thus the league blocked the proposed re-branding for the fall of 1995, which meant the Nordiques would not be able to switch to this new look until the 1996/97 season.


Touching on the Colorado Avalanche Dynasty 

As mentioned above, it’s likely that, had of the Nordiques stayed in Quebec City, we would have seen a team in the uniforms pictured above win the Stanley Cup at some point.

Denver hockey fans were incredibly blessed to inherit the Nordiques who had a young nucleus of star players. The Avalanche began their history in Denver with 12 consecutive successful seasons- most of which the Avs were serious Cup contenders. 

They won the Stanley Cup in 1996 and in 2001. They also got as far as the Western Conference Finals another 4 times- in 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2002. Additionally, they won the President’s Trophy- awarded to the Regular Season Champions- in 1997 and 2001.

We can’t say for certain that the Nordiques would have had the same level of success in Quebec that the franchise was able to sustain in Denver, however; let’s note that the core of this dynasty was formed during the last years of the Nordiques existence.


The Future of Hockey in Quebec City

Over the past 5 years a return of NHL hockey to Quebec City has been a consistent rumor.  This only became stronger once the NHL allowed the Atlanta Thrashers to move north to Winnipeg in 2011.  Quebec City and Winnipeg are actually very similar hockey markets.  Both cities are known for having very cold/ northern climates. Winnipeg has a metropolitan population of roughly 730,000 people; while Quebec City is only slightly larger and has a metropolitan population of 806,000 residents.

Furthermore, both of these Canadian cities laid their professional hockey routes as Charter Franchises of the World Hockey Association back in 1972; and were 2 of the 4 WHA franchises admitted into the NHL in 1979. (The others were the Hartford Whalers and Edmonton Oilers).  

From a marketing standpoint, the NHL has an amazing opportunity to become the only of the major professional leagues to be located in this unique city.  Quebec City is beautiful, full of culture and history, and by far the closest thing North America has to a major European City.  My advice to the NHL would be to market Quebec City as the NHL’s European-experience; and not like the League’s ‘red-headed-step-child’; which some hockey people accused the NHL of doing back in the 1990s.

With the announcement that the NHL is expanding to Las Vegas, the League will soon reach 31 teams, which is clearly not a permanent number.  In terms of having balance and symmetry within the Divisions and Conferences, 32 is truly the optimal number; and the NFL is a great example of why 32 teams is most favorable. As a math guy, 32 is both a pleasing and handy number because it’s divisible by 2, 4, 8, and 16.

Many hockey fans miss the baby blue & white uniforms of the Nordiques, and in recent years, Quebec retro-merchandise has become quite popular.  Thinking ahead, the new Nordiques would have 2 great options for their new threads, and in my opinion, they should be the only options.

The new team ought to either go with the classic Nordiques igloo logo, colors, and fleur-de-lis; or suit up in the mysterious Nordiques uniforms pictured above that never got to see the light of day and have been buried, waiting over 20 years to finally see NHL ice.

Here’s my vote:  The hypothetical new Nordiques ought to use the classic look for their main uniforms, and use both the white and navy blue versions of the never-used ‘Husky’ jerseys as their alternate uniforms.

Either way, here’s hoping the NHL soon finds its way back to Quebec City and re-ignites one of the best rivalries in sports.

Sports Education