Credits: REUTERS/TODD KOROL
QUEBEC CITY - Former Nordiques coach Michel Bergeron is hopping mad that the Coyotes will be staying in Phoenix and accused NHL commissioner Gary Bettman of rigging the vote.
“(It) was arranged in advance,” said the fiery ex-bench boss.
“Come on,” he added. “The NHL takes us for fools. They take Quebec City people for fools, he and his bag carrier, (deputy commissioner) Bill Daly.”
Bergeron led the Nordiques from 1980 to 1987, and again in the 1989-1990 season.
He has been one of the vocal advocates for the return of NHL hockey to Quebec City after the Nordiques moved to Denver in 1995.
There were hopes the struggling Coyotes could be relocated from Phoenix, but Glendale City Council voted Tuesday to keep the franchise in Arizona.
Even if the vote had gone the other way, it’s believed the team would have relocated to Seattle, not Quebec City.
Bergeron suggests Bettman doesn’t want another team to leave the U.S but is afraid to say so publicly.
“Bettman never utters the name of Quebec City and he doesn’t want the Nordiques,” said Bergeron. “This is an obvious lack of respect and I find it disgusting.”
He suggests Nordiques fans push the NHL’s board of governors to decide on the NHL’s future plans in the provincial capital.
Ground was recently broken for an NHL-ready arena in Quebec City that’s scheduled for completion in 2015.
Former Nordiques players were more moderate in their reaction to the 15-year, $225 million deal to keep the team in Glendale.
Michel Goulet, who netted 50-plus goals for four consecutive seasons in the 1980s, spoke of “sad news for Quebec City.”
“I thought (a move) was there, but on the other hand, it provides a chance to better prepare. We’ll have to wait.”
The relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg in 2011 stoked hopes that another sagging U.S. franchise would soon head north.
Marian Stastny, one of the famed trio of Slovak brothers who once donned the Nordiques sweaters, said it’s only matter of time before another NHL team bolts for Canada.
“The (U.S.) economic crisis is not over and there are other clubs in trouble,” he said.
Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume congratulated Phoenix hockey fans but insisted his city is still in the NHL’s plans.
- With files from Marianne White