Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Entry archive:

(MATHIEU BELANGER)
(MATHIEU BELANGER)

Bienvenue to the stylish new cyber-digs Add to ...

Right then, where were we?

Probably bleating about switching mandates for a few weeks this summer, or somesuch irrelevant tattle.

Fear not, faithful readers, the hired-at-a-discount old retreads at FI didn't go far - not that the threadbare bank account or pending litigation would have let us anyway.

So it's back into the fray.

Casting a knowing eye across the magnificent sweep that is the sporting scene in Quebec, only one subject truly grabs the fancy.

The leaves are reddening, the morning air is a-pinching, it must be October; which of course means that after some considerable neglect it's time to turn our attentions to the iconic hockey team that is the resident obsession of this here nation of peoples.

We speak, of course, of the Quebec Nordiques (2.0).

You didn't seriously really think the fall would begin with a bit 'o hilarity about the Habs did you?

Yes, the Canadiens are getting a fair share of the attention these days, but when 60,000 people turn up at a rally in Quebec City - they want their rink, dammit - it has to count for something.

Here we have a quintessentially Canadian, two-solitudes vibe going on: everyone in this province is pretty well convinced (and in the case of critics, resigned) to the fact the $400-million new Colisée is going to get built. Everyone outside Quebec is convinced the project died in the midst of the backlash that followed sympathetic noises from Ottawa over the question of federal funding.

Here's the reality, as far as French Immersion can discern it: this thing will get done.

Sources in Ottawa tell us that the PMO is not categorically averse to the project, provided it includes a sizable private investment and is sold as more than just an NHL rink (the city and province have already tied it to an Olympic bid, and Ottawa always helps fund those).

Well-connected Conservatives say there is money left over in the infrastructure kitty for a multi-purpose building - as there presumably would be for other cities - and Quebec City's municipal officials know this too.

At the same time, sources who should know say the threat of being wiped off the electoral map in Quebec City if they don't deliver - and the way Quebec City mayor and force of nature Régis Labeaume has set it up, the Tories would be - isn't as terrifying a prospect as it would have been six months ago. The six or seven seats they stand to lose would certainly hurt, but many of them could be made up elsewhere, or so the argument goes.

The bigger obstacle is caucus resistance to doing what might be perceived as special favours for Quebec, but since when has this PMO been held hostage by what caucus wants? And since when has caucus stood up to them?

Yeah, yeah, our business is sports, but FI has some experience with these sorts of situations, and we still say it's going to happen: when the city is forced to cancel its tender process early in 2011 (as the election drums beat louder in Ottawa) and the Quebec Tories confront their mortality, a deal will be struck.

And not least because of the personalities involved: the hockey-fan-in-chief in the Langevin Block and the two movers and shakers on the ground in Quebec.

Pierre-Karl Péladeau has a way of making things happen, and so does Labeaume, who has redeemed previous fiascoes (Quebec City's 400th anniversary anyone?).

Then there's the six-degrees-of-separation theory.

Péladeau is more than a passing acquaintance of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's (his wife, television personality Julie Snyder, has been sighted more than once at 24 Sussex, and was invited to a dinner Laureen Harper held for the Queen). And Quebecor has sterling Tory credentials with the likes of Brian Mulroney as chairman of the board and former apparatchik Luc Lavoie as a senior exec (to say nothing of the recently departed Kory Teneycke, who was Harper's spin doctor).

The club is small, gang, and the members know each other, which facilitates understanding.

And beyond the riches and determination of a Péladeau, who badly wants to own a team and has quietly been working the NHL side, there is Labeaume.

On Monday, Monsieur le Maire said he already has some alternative scenarios ready to go to make the thing palatable for Labeaume wouldn't divulge the specific nature of Plans B and C in his interview with top-rated radio personality Paul Arcand (who, unusually, didn't badger him into a weeping blob of jelly as he usually does with recalcitrant guests).

But it's safe to assume that Le Maire de la belle grande Ville de Quebec has lined up some local business folk to kick in with pledges to buy sponsorships and so forth. Naming the thing should be worth at least $50-million or so, shouldn't it?

Cringe if you must, but it's on - although we'd expect Ottawa's share to be smaller than the province's, say $100-120 million or perhaps even less.

Could be we'll be proven flat wrong on this, but as Gilles Duceppe points out, at least it would be cheaper than the roughly $500 million the feds forked over earlier this decade for Toronto's Olympic bid, which ultimately failed.

We close with some quick and possibly irrelevant observations about the Montreal Canadiens, who decided to hold their pre-season team-building retreat at a golf and casino resort in the smashingly beautiful Charlevoix region.

A bit of an upgrade from Teen Ranch in Caledon, you'd have to agree.

We smell a side-bet from the playoff run (moist and garrulous team executives: "hell, we'll even send you to Manoir Richelieu next fall if you beat the Penguins!") Anyhoo, here goes:

- Who doesn't like kids? The Montreal Canadiens, that's who.

To wit: All-around good guy and Saskatchewan native Travis Moen pummels 18-year-old Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Spotted Cats, then the likable Michael Cammalleri, offensive dynamo, hockey philosopher, goes all primeval on 18-year-old Nino Niederreiter of the Long Island New Yorkers.

Different cases to be sure, but they reveal a troubling pattern of kinder abuse, no? (If this were a classier operation, we'd have some ominous-sounding music for you, like this).

Gudbranson was more than happy to throw hands with Moen, but a linesman held back one of his arms - which Moen later said he couldn't see - and, well, you know the rest.

Accusations of cowardice ensued (never mind that Gudbranson is a big boy, who scares the Bruins' Brad Marchand.

Moen shrugged it off, telling us last week "hey, I've been beaten up by older guys lots of times."

The Isles also fumed about the Habs' chicken-heartedness after Cammalleri went all Paul Bunyan on Niederreiter's calf.

Cammalleri, of course, now gets to sit out the opener. We'll see if that helps break the cycle of violence.

- Rosters close tomorrow, so it's squeaky bum time for Ben Maxwell, Alex Henry, Alex Picard, Ryan White - and to a lesser extent Mathieu Darche, who has a one-way deal and had a strong camp. But when the music stops, all but two of those guys aren't going to have seats. Tuff.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories