[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]
Photo credit: Montreal Gazette
Rarely under Bob Nicholson’s leadership has Hockey Canada ever courted controversy.
This makes their decision to support an international tournament that features a Quebec team all the more puzzling.
As Hockey Canada rightly points out, provincial and regional teams regularly play against national teams from other countries.
But it’s hard to believe Hockey Canada were naive enough to think this would be just another hockey tournament.
The notion of a Team Quebec filled with NHL players has been the dream of separatist Quebec for decades.
And it’s taken no time at all for Quebec nationalists to jump on board the bandwagon and politicize the decision.
So what could have motivated Hockey Canada?
The bottom line, for one.
Hockey Canada has never turned down a chance to make a buck. A Quebec Cup tournament, featuring the provincial team against France, Italy and Switzerland would do mega business in La Belle Province.
In fact, you could argue that a tournament featuring a Team Quebec would be more significant than any tourney that featured a Team Ontario, Team British Columbia or Team Alberta.
Expect Hockey Canada to earn a nice return on licensing fees and other revenues associated with the tournament, all the while playing the innocent “this is not a big deal” card.
How good could a Team Quebec be?
On the surface, the lineup doesn’t look too bad – fast, skilled, deep in goal but lacking grit and defensive-depth:
Martin St. Louis (RW)
Jason Pominville (RW)
JP Dumont (RW)
Patrice Bergeron (C-RW)
Simon Gagne (LW)
Danny Briere (C-LW)
Guillaume Latendresse (LW)
David Perron (LW)
Vincent Lecavalier (C)
Mike Ribeiro (C)
Antoine Vermette (C)
Eric Belanger (C)
Jason Demers (D)
Bruno Gervais (D)
Kris Letang (D)
Stephane Robidas (D)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (D)
Francois Beauchemin (D)
Martin Brodeur (G)
Roberto Luongo (G)
Jonathan Bernier (G)
Alex Tanguay (LW)
Derick Brassard (C)
Max Talbot (C-RW)
Alex Burrows (RW)
That being said, there’s been little comment so far from the NHLPA, and it’s doubtful NHL players would line up to shorten their already brief off-season.
Francophone NHL’ers who’ve played for the Habs would also be among the first to tell you that the language politics surrounding hockey in Quebec can be a negative distraction.
One suspects then that Team Quebec will be filled with also-rans and players from overseas, who see this as one last chance to catch the interest of an NHL team.
If this is the case, what happens to Quebec nationalists if the inaugural winner of the Quebec Cup is not the home team?
THOUGHTS ON THE FLY:
- Even if Peter Forsberg magically stays healthy enough to mount yet another NHL comeback, it’s hard to believe he could be a truly impact player. One suspects he’d be very Mats Sundin-like, in his final season as a Canuck.
- All Toronto eyes will be on Nazem Kadri’s Maple Leafs debut, but Keith Aulie’s big-league audition could have just as big an impact on the future of the franchise. If Aulie is ready to play a strong, defensive role at the NHL-level, it frees up Brian Burke to potentially move Francois Beauchemin and/or Mike Komisarek. Both have disappointed – the former more than the latter.
- While it may be premature for Mike Brophy to suggest NHL scoring is in decline, don’t be surprised if this is an NHL storyline come April. More and more teams are effectively using a collapse-style defense in front of their goalie, while goalies themselves are better-than-ever. One radical solution? Adopt an NBA-like key for the area in front of the net and prohibit a certain number of defenders from occupying this area at even-strength.
- Can someone explain why anyone should care that the Conference Board of Canada believes Quebec City, Hamilton and Winnipeg are ready to support an NHL team?
- Some shenanigans between RJ Umberger and the St. Louis Blues recently, when Umberger jogged twice through the Blue’s pre-game soccer warm-up.
- CBC Sports has ranked the worst 3rd jerseys of all-time. Unfairly ranked: those Predators’ mustard silks. Rightfully listed as awful: those Kings, Ducks and Lightning sweaters. Ugh.