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WHA Teams: Quebec Nordiques

By Wikipedia

The Quebec Nordiques (translated into English as "Northmen" or "Northerners") were a professional ice hockey team based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. The Nordiques played in the World Hockey Association (1972-1979) and the National Hockey League (1979-1995). The franchise was relocated to Denver in 1995 and renamed the Colorado Avalanche.

At a glance...
Franchise Facts
Established 1972
Located Quebec City
Denver, Colorado
Purchase Price $215,000 (1972)
Owner(s) Jean Lesage
Paul Racine
WHA Postseason/Titles
Canadian Division Champions 1975
Eastern Division Champions 1977
AVCO Cup Champions 1977
NHL Divisional Champs 1986, 1995
 
Nicknames
San Francisco Seahawks (1971-1972)
Quebec Nordiques (1972-95)
Colorado Avelanche (1996-present)
Arena
Colisée de Québec

The Quebec Nordiques formed as one of the original World Hockey Association teams in 1972. The franchise was originally awarded to a group in San Francisco but hastily moved to Quebec City after the deal with the California group fell through. The team was named the Nordiques because of Quebec City's northern locale.

The Nordiques' first head coach was the legendary Maurice "Rocket" Richard but he only lasted one game, a 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Crusaders. The "Rocket" decided coaching wasn't his forte and stepped down.

The Nordiques' first star was two-way defenseman J.C. Tremblay, who led the WHA in assists in the league's first season and would be named a league All-Star for his first four years in Quebec. The next season Serge Bernier and Rejean Houle joined the Nordiques. In 1974-75, they finally made the playoffs with the help of the high-scoring Marc Tardif. They beat the Phoenix Roadrunners and the Minnesota Fighting Saints to reach the finals, where they were swept in four games by the Gordie Howe-led Houston Aeros.

The next season saw playoff disappointment as the Nordiques lost to the Calgary Cowboys after losing Marc Tardif to injury after a controversial hit by the Cowboys' Rick Jodzio. The Nordiques finally captured the Avco World Trophy in 1976-77 as they took out the New England Whalers and the Indianapolis Racers in five games before beating the Winnipeg Jets in seven.

By 1978 the WHA was on shaky ground. The Nordiques were unable to defend their title and fell in the playoffs to the New England Whalers. The 1978-79 season would be the final one for the WHA and for J.C. Tremblay, who retired at the end of the season and had his number 3 jersey retired before the Nordiques merged into the National Hockey League together with three other WHA teams, the Winnipeg Jets, New England Whalers, and the Edmonton Oilers.

In 1979, Real Cloutier became the first NHL player ever to score a hat trick in his debut NHL game.

Awesome80s

Forced to let all but three players go in a dispersal draft, the Nordiques were now an expansion team and sunk to the bottom. They finished the 1979-80 NHL season in last place despite the play of a promising rookie left winger named Michel Goulet. In 1980 the Nordiques signed Peter Stastny, a member of the Czechoslovak national team who defected earlier that year. His brothers, Anton and Marian, would soon follow and also sign with Quebec. The following season, led by Stastny's 109-point Calder Trophy-winning performance, the Nordiques made the NHL playoffs for the first time but fell in five games to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Led by Goulet and Peter Stastny, the Nordiques remained strong contenders for several seasons. Quebec again made the playoffs in 1981-82, disposing of the vaunted Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, but were swept by the New York Islanders dynasty in the conference finals.

A rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens intensified during the 1983-84 NHL season culminating in the infamous "Vendredi Saint" brawl during the 1984 playoffs, after which the Habs eliminated the Nordiques from the postseason. During that season, the Nordiques became the first NHL team to employ a costumed mascot when Badaboum - a fuzzy, roly-poly blue creature - began entertaining fans at the Colisée with his bizarre dance routines.

WHA era program.

The following season Montreal and Quebec battled each other for the Adams Division championship. The Habs won by three points, but the Nordiques would exact revenge in the playoffs with a seven-game victory which was clinched by Peter Stastny's overtime goal. They won their first NHL division title in 1985-86 but were met with a defensive collapse in the playoffs, allowing the Hartford Whalers to advance.

The next season saw more of the Nords-Habs rivalry as the playoff series went to a seven-game battle royale, with the Canadiens finally coming out on top. But this was the end of their relatively successful period as decline began the following season. The Nordiques finished last in their division and missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years. In 1988-89 they had the league's worst record. To make matters worse both Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny left the team in 1990, winding up with the Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils respectively. The arrival of Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur in 1989 came with much fanfare, but it soon became clear Lafleur's best years were far behind him. "The Flower" managed only 24 goals in 98 games with Quebec. Despite the stellar play of a young forward named Joe Sakic, the Nordiques struggled throughout the late 80s and early 90s.

The 1990s

By the 1989 off-season the Nordiques had sunk to the league's cellar. That year les Nords drafted Swede prospect Mats Sundin, making him the first European taken first overall in NHL draft history. The following year Quebec chose first again, taking Owen Nolan.

In 1991 the Nordiques once again had the first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. The best player in that year's draft, Eric Lindros, repeatedly said he would never play for Quebec but the team chose him anyway. As a result, Lindros refused to wear the team jersey on Draft Day and only held it for press photographs. Lindros, on advice of his mother Bonnie, refused to sign with the team and began a holdout that would last over a year. Meanwhile the Nordiques finished out of playoff contention again in 1991-92. Finally on June 30, 1992, after confusion over whether Quebec traded Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers was settled, the Nordiques sent Lindros to the Flyers in exchange for forward Mike Ricci, goaltender Ron Hextall, defensemen Steve Duchesne and Kerry Huffman, "future considerations" which eventually became enforcer Chris Simon, two first-round picks and US$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. Also in the trade were the rights to a Swedish teenage prospect named Peter Forsberg. The deal - probably the single most significant NHL transaction of the entire decade - quickly transformed the Nordiques from a laughingstock to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

During the 1992-93 NHL season these new players along with Sakic - now a bona fide NHL All-Star - and the rapidly improving Sundin and Nolan led Quebec to the biggest single-season team improvement in NHL history. The Nordiques made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, but fell to their old nemesis the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. They would miss the playoffs the next season as they struggled with injuries.

The Lindros deal proved a strong contender for one of the most one-sided trades not merely in hockey history, but professional sports history. Despite Lindros' fine career, no one would now -- in retrospect -- trade him even up for Forsberg, who won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1995, his first season with the Nordiques, and would become the star of the franchise for a decade and a probable future Hall of Famer. Ricci would give three useful seasons to the franchise before being traded while after Hextall's single season as a Nordique he was traded to the New York Islanders. In return the franchise got two draft picks, which they used to select Adam Deadmarsh and Alex Tanguay, who would both be key members of the Avalanche Cup-winning teams. Thibault would, after the franchise shift to Denver, be traded for Montreal goalie Patrick Roy, one of the greats of all-time and the foundation for two future Stanley Cups.

Move to Denver

For the 1994-95 season Marc Crawford was hired as the new head coach and Forsberg was deemed ready to finally join the team, but first there was the problem of a lockout. When the shortened season began, the Nordiques played well and finished on top of the Eastern Conference. Even so, the team faltered in the postseason and were eliminated in the first round by the defending Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers.

The playoff loss proved to be Quebec's swan song in the NHL as the team's financial troubles increasingly took center stage. Team owner Marcel Aubut asked for a bailout from Quebec's provincial government. The bailout fell through and in May 1995, shortly after the Nordiques were eliminated from the playoffs, Aubut was forced to sell the team to a group of investors in Denver, Colorado, as that summer, the franchise moved to Colorado and renamed the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, the Nordiques were planning to change their logo, colors, and uniforms for the 1996-97 Season before the bailout fell through. Although some resented the move and wondered what might have been, many fans in Quebec felt the team was still theirs and cheered the Avalanche to Stanley Cup success in their first season in Denver. There had even been talk of holding a second Stanley Cup parade through Quebec City, but it was nixed because the city could no longer claim the team as its own.

A committee of local citizens and businesses has been formed in an attempt to bring an NHL franchise back to Quebec City.

A number of Nordiques are still active in professional hockey, including Sundin, Forsberg, Nolan, Thibeault, Ricci and Andrei Kovalenko. Joe Sakic is the final Nordique still with the Quebec/Colorado franchise.



WHA Bibliography
The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by Ed Willes
The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association by Scott Adam Surgent
WHA Pro Hockey '75 - '76 by Dan Proudfoot
WHA Media Guides (each team published one each year)

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from this Wikipedia article, which is probably more up to date than ours (retrieved August 12, 2005).

With the exception of the Wikipedia article above, everything else is...


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