The Quebec Nordiques formed as one of the original World Hockey Association teams in 1972. The franchise was not one of the eight original teams established when the league was announced on November 1, 1971. The franchise was originally awarded to a group in San Francisco, as the San Francisco Sharks. However, the San Francisco group’s funding collapsed prior to the start of the first season, and the WHA, in haste, sold the organization to a group of six Quebec City-based businessmen who owned the highly profitable Quebec Remparts junior team; Marcel Bédard, Léo-Paul Beausoleil, Jean-Marc Bruneau, John Dacres, Marius Fortier, and Jean-Claude Mathieu.
They were named the Nordiques because they were one of the northernmost teams in professional sports in North America. Quebec City is located at 46 degrees north latitude; Nordiques translated from French to English means Northerners or Northmen. The only WHA teams located farther north were the Alberta Oilers (changed its name to Edmonton Oilers after one season), Calgary Cowboys, Vancouver Blazers and Winnipeg Jets.
As part of the NHL–WHA merger, the WHA insisted on including all of its surviving Canadian teams, including the Nordiques, among the teams taken into the NHL at the end of the 1978–79 season. As a result, the Nordiques entered the NHL along with the Whalers, Oilers, and Jets. The Nordiques would be placed in the Adams Division of the Wales Conference.
Forced to let all but three players go in a dispersal draft, the Nordiques sank to the bottom of the standings. They finished the 1979–80 NHL season last in the division despite the play of promising rookie left winger Michel Goulet. An early highlight to the otherwise dreary season came when Real Cloutier became the second NHL player, following Alex Smart, ever to score a hat trick in his first NHL game.
In 1991, the Nordiques once again had the first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. They picked junior star Eric Lindros, even though he had let it be known well in advance that he would never play for Quebec. Among the reasons, Lindros cited distance, lack of marketing potential, and having to speak French. After the Nordiques selected him anyway, Lindros then refused to wear the team jersey on Draft Day and only held it for press photographs. Lindros, on the advice of his mother Bonnie, refused to sign with the team and began a holdout that lasted over a year. The Nordiques president publicly announced that they would make Lindros the centerpiece of their franchise turnaround, and refused to trade Lindros, saying that he would not have a career in the NHL as long as he held out. Some of the Nordiques wanted to move on without Lindros, as Joe Sakic commented “We only want players here who have the passion to play the game. I’m tired of hearing that name. He’s not here and there are a lot of others in this locker room who really care about the game.” Meanwhile, the Nordiques finished with another dreadful season in 1991–92, missing the 70-point barrier for the fifth year in a row.
On June 30, 1992, after confusion over whether Quebec had traded Lindros’ rights to the Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers was settled by an arbitrator, the Nordiques sent Lindros to the Flyers in exchange for forwards Peter Forsberg and Mike Ricci, goaltender Ron Hextall, defencemen Steve Duchesne and Kerry Huffman, “future considerations” which eventually became enforcer Chris Simon, two first-round picks and $15 million. One of the draft picks was used by the Nordiques to select goaltender Jocelyn Thibault, the other was traded twice and ultimately used by the Washington Capitals to select Nolan Baumgartner.
After the trade, Lindros said that his refusal to play for the Nordiques had nothing to do with the language question and more to do with what he saw as a “lack of winning spirit” in the Nordiques organization. However, in 2016, Lindros said that he simply did not want to play for a team owned by Aubut.
Aubut asked for a bailout from Quebec’s provincial government. However, Premier Jacques Parizeau turned the request down, as few in Quebec were willing to be seen as subsidizing a hockey club that paid multimillion-dollar salaries. Bailouts for Ottawa and Edmonton were also rejected for the same reason. In 1994, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Peter Karmanos was in talks to buy the Nordiques and move them to the then under-construction America West Arena (now Talking Stick Resort Arena) in Phoenix, Arizona. The Nordiques later denied that they would relocate and would look to replace the aging Colisée. Finally in May 1995, shortly after the Nordiques were eliminated from the playoffs, Aubut announced that he had no other choice but to accept an offer from COMSAT Entertainment Group, owner of the National Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets. COMSAT moved the team to Denver where it was renamed the Colorado Avalanche. Though the Nordiques franchise and Aubut never lost money on the team, Aubut feared losing money and sold the team before the possibility became a reality.
The Quebec Nordiques in Canadian English; literally translated “Quebec City Northmen” or “Northerners”) were a Canadian professional ice hockey team based in Quebec City, Quebec. The Nordiques played in the World Hockey Association (1972 – 1979) and the National Hockey League (1979 – 1995). The franchise was relocated to Denver, Colorado, in 1995, and renamed the Colorado Avalanche.
Quebec City – Denver
1980 – Present / National Hockey League
1972 – 1979 / World Hockey Association
1995 – Present / Colorado Avalanche
1972 – 1995 / Quebec Nordiques
Nordiques – They were named the Nordiques because they were one of the northernmost teams in professional sports in North America.
Stanley Cup 0
Avco Cup 1
1999 – Present / Pepsi Center
1995 – 1999 / McNichols Sports Arena
1972 – 1995 / Colisée de Québec
2014 – Present / Ann Walton Kroenke
2000 – 2014 / E. Stanley Kroenke
1995 – 2000 / Charlie Lyons
1990 – 1995 / Marcel Aubut
1978 – 1990 / Carling – O’Keefe Brewery
1972 – 1978 / Quebec Remparts
3 J. C. Tremblay*
8 Marc Tardif*
16 Michel Goulet*
19 Joe Sakic
21 Peter Forsberg
23 / Milan Hejduk
26 Peter Stastny*
33 / Patrick Roy
52 / Adam Foote
77 / Ray Bourque
99 Wayne Gretzky
*Only retired by the Nordiques
*Blue is this team’s history