Nordiques: Molson Is Not The Issue

By JD Lagrange – Oh that topic again. There are a bunch of former NHL employees who are trying to remain relevant by stirring things up through the media… and it works as people talk about them. How many times have we heard Michel Bergeron saying things that make no sense? Or Stephane Waite pretending to be an expert at something? Or Serge Savard strumming the language drum to put down Marc Bergevin? And the list goes on. While most hockey fans can read right through the self-serving and attention-seeking comments, some people are unfortunately gullible enough to take them for granted.

Recently, it’s been Michel Therrien. In his most recent interview, he seemed to think that he was making an earth-shattering announcement when he claimed that Montreal Canadiens’ President Geoff Molson doesn’t want the return of the Quebec Nordiques. Worse, some media outlets made it “news”. Even worse, some fans took that to the bank as the reason why the NHL is seemingly refusing to return the Nordiques to where they feel it belongs.

Real reasons

Does Molson want the return of the Nordiques in what is currently “his market” and lose out on some revenue? Of course not. Be honest here: would you if you were in his place? But those who think that the Montreal Canadiens’ President is one of the main obstacles to the return of the NHL in Quebec City are looking the wrong way. While he does sit on several boards, including the NHL Board of Governors and the Hockey Hall of Fame, he only has one vote (if it ever came to that, which it hasn’t). If he had that much pull, Molson would have resolved the unfair refereeing against his team, right? *wink*

The real reason why Quebec doesn’t have a team is Gary Bettman. You want someone to blame? Look towards him. But for one of the rare times, I understand why Bettman and the NHL think that way… and so should everyone, even if they disagree. As you know, understanding does not mean supporting or agreeing.

Gary Bettman

Remember that under Bettman, everything is about money and greed, not necessarily what’s for the good of the game. There have been numerous examples of that since 1993, when he was hired as the NHL Commissioner. So if you take that approach, you should understand what I’m saying here.

If the NHL grants a franchise to Quebec City, what does the league gain? A rivalry? They don’t care about that. Remember… think money. By doing so, they take money out of one pocket (Molson’s) and give it to someone else. They don’t gain fans (or very few) or revenues as even TV rights will be divided, losing some for Montreal and gaining it back to Quebec.

Now if they put a team in a US market where there are few hockey fans, just about 100% of the money coming in is “new revenue” for the NHL and its owners. New fans equals new TV rights, higher viewership to sell those rights. Cha-ching! They’ve gained a great hockey market in Nashville, in Las Vegas, in Seattle even. Money that they would have only split had they put a team in Quebec City.

So for the owners, the return of the Nordiques is a lateral move at best. Particularly if you think of generating revenue. It fails drastically when compared to the potential of introducing hockey in a market where it’s not already strong.

Glimmer of hope

Admittedly, I am not “in the know” of the details and discussions behind the NHL’s closed door meetings. But if I look at it from a fiscal point of view, the way Bettman and his greedy acolytes look at things, the hope of seeing the return of the Nordiques is slim to none. But it might be there ever so slightly…

The only way I could see the Nordiques returning would be through relocation under the following conditions:

  1. The NHL’s Board of Governors gets tired of having teams on life support (see Arizona);
  2. The NHL has exhausted the options of several US Cities like Houston (TX), San Antonio (TX), Charlotte (NC), Indianapolis (IN), Baltimore (MD) and even Atlanta (GA), yes again; and,
  3. Gary Bettman quits or gets fired, and the NHL hires someone who makes decisions for the good of the game itself.

So instead of listening to the Therrien’s of this world, you would be better off relying on your own common sense than believing the words of someone trying desperately to remain relevant and wanting to be heard at all costs. It’s okay to be frustrated with the situation. But at least, go bark up the right tree and direct your anger towards the real culprit…

You want to hold your breath for Quebec to get another NHL franchise? Do it, but it will be without me as I’ll be dead before that happens… at least based on the way the NHL under Bettman has been going.

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NHL Player Safety? Think Again!

By JD Lagrange – When it comes to Player Safety, the NFL is the most pro-active professional league in North America. They have recognized a long time ago that taking someone at the knees (clipping) is wrong and addressed the issue. Then, they followed brain science closely and rapidly acknowledged that head injuries and concussions, in a physical sport, cause severe long term damage. In all cases, the league has taken drastic measures not only to change some rules, but to hand out severe repercussions to those guilty of ignoring those rules.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the NHL who refuses to even acknowledge the science behind concussions and its long term effects. And several people, including players’ agent Allan Walsh, have been driving the bus hard against the league and its Commissioner Gary Bettman, and for quite some time.

Refereeing and Player Safety

In its wisdom, the NHL thought that bringing two referees on the ice was a good idea. As if expansion wasn’t enough by graduating referees that were previously not competent enough to work in the NHL, the league decided that doubling the number of men with red armbands would solve the few “missed calls” on the ice.

Instead, they have taken room away on an ice surface already getting too small due to the sheer size of players. Instead, they added one more judgement (an often incompetent one) to the mix, creating more inconsistency. It’s a flop. The refereeing was 100% better back when one man took all the decisions, as it was more consistent within the same game. Did they miss calls? Yes. But they miss as many today while creating more inconsistency.

Then, you have the so-called “Player Safety”, directed by former enforcer George Parros. What a mess this department has been. They do whatever they want in there, depending on the players or teams involved.

Instead of penalizing the action, they choose to punish the result of the play. It’s as silly as the bleeding rule on a high stick. You can cause a hairline fracture to someone’s jaw with the flat blade of the stick and it’s a two minutes penalty. But if you barely touch someone’s face with the tip of your stick, drawing blood (the face is one of the bloodiest parts of the body), it’s four minutes. The Player Safety department acts in a similar fashion.

There simply is no consistency and it starts at the very top. Too often, it seems like they’re looking for ways to protect the aggressor instead of the victims of infractions or cheap shots. They break down, frame by frame, if a player touched another part of the body other than the head, to justify not being too severe. You don’t see that in the NFL. You made contact to the head, you are punished. Period.


Instead of resolving head trauma issues, the NHL (and NHLPA) are hiding behind the umbrella of “player safety”, or “protection” when allowing equipment that is more suited as weapons than actual protection. Oh it does protect… the aggressor instead of the victims of hits.

Whether you like him or not, Don Cherry did this segment 23 years ago. That’s right, back in 1999, Grapes was talking about the players’ equipment and how it had progressed and becoming a weapon utilized against their peers.

Those old shoulder pads never stopped players like Bob Gainey from giving bone-crushing bodychecks. Sometimes, the aggressor got hurt playing that way. But they knew it was coming and mostly, there was a level of respect we don’t see as much today. Players feel invincible in those armours and the victims are the ones most at risk.


And that’s why, folks, the NHL is losing ground amongst North America’s major sports. In spite of a steady growth in revenue (mostly due to expansion) and expanding to 32 markets, the NHL has been surpassed in the US by… soccer! Yet look where the league with the most integrity sits, the NFL!


No, it’s not because of fighting as some want to make you believe. If anything, the league has tied the players’ hands behind their back, talking away their ability to keep each other accountable, when they amended the instigator rule to what it is, bringing down the number of fights. The real culprit is the league’s inconsistency and below par administration of rules on the ice that’s turning even hardcore fans into fair-weather fans, or bandwagon jumpers.

Revenue is the biggest copout for short term gain, the biggest smoke screen behind which both the NHL and NHLPA are hiding at the expense of the sport itself and mostly, of the fans paying big money to watch them wreck something once great.

More reading…