WHA Teams: Quebec Nordiques
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
Division Champions 1975
Eastern Division Champions 1977
AVCO Cup Champions 1977
NHL Divisional Champs 1986, 1995
Francisco Seahawks (1971-1972)
Quebec Nordiques (1972-95)
Colorado Avelanche (1996-present)
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.
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
||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.
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
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.
Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by
Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association
by Scott Adam Surgent
Pro Hockey '75 - '76 by Dan Proudfoot
WHA Media Guides (each team published one each year)
These and many other WHA items can be found at
eBay - check our links on the far right of this page!