Quebec City group makes NHL expansion pitch Tuesday

Quebec City will take the next step in trying to land an NHL franchise on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the city's new arena hosted NHL hockey for the first time.

New arena sold out Monday for Habs-Penguins pre-season game

Several Habs jerseys and a few from the old Quebec Nordiques can be seen as Montreal forward battles in front of Pittsburgh goalie Marc Andre Fleury Monday night at the Vidéotron Centre in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Quebec City will take the next step in trying to land an NHL franchise on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the city's new arena hosted NHL hockey for the first time.

Montreal-based communications giant Quebecor and a group from Las Vegas are in the third and final stage of a process to join the league.

"They have been invited to make presentations to the Executive Committee on Tuesday," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email.

Later in the day, the committee will report to the NHL Board of Governors.

"Evaluation process will continue," Daly told the Associated Press. "No defined timeline."

Quebecor spokesman Martin Tremblay and Michelle Kersch, spokeswoman for Foley's group, confirmed to AP their groups will make a presentation.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this month the league is "not feeling any timeline pressure," in the expansion process. Bettman has proposed an expansion fee of $500 million US, a significant jump from the $80 million fee paid by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild, when the NHL last expanded to 30 teams in 2000.

It is expected to take at least two years before the NHL would potentially have 32 teams playing.

The league has examined each market and both groups' arena plans after they were the chosen two out of 16 expansion applicants. As part of the process, both groups submitted a $10 million down payment, $2 million of which was nonrefundable. An NHL franchise in Las Vegas would be the first for any of the major sports leagues in the city.

New ice, bouncing puck

Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins tried out the new Vidéotron Centre in Quebec City on Monday night, with the Habs winning the pre-season game.

The Canadiens skated to a 4-1 win before a sellout crowd of 18,259 who seemed split between those cheering for Montreal and the fans who haven't forgotten the defunct Quebec Nordiques.

Quebec City is pushing hard to bring back the defunct Nordiques, who were Montreal's hottest rivals from 1979 to 1995.

Alexander Semin scored his first goal of the pre-season while Lars Eller, Brian Finn and Dale Weise, with an empty-net goal, also scored for Montreal. Carey Price played the entire game in net and made 22 saves.

Beau Bennett scored for Pittsburgh, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves. The Penguins did not dress offensive stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

Most players enjoyed the experience and said they liked the new rink, although Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang said there is still work to do.

"The ice wasn't NHL quality," he said. "It was hard. The puck was bouncing a lot.

"And with the [black] logos at centre ice, you lost sight of the puck."

His teammate Pascal Dupuis and Montreal's David Desharnais had no complaints, adding that the ice was better than at the old Colisée where the Nordiques played.

With files from The Canadian Press


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