The Quebec Nordiques 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.
Beginnings in the WHA[edit | edit source]
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, as the San Francisco Sharks. However, the San Francisco group's funding collapsed prior to the start of the first season, and the WHA hastily sold the organization to a Quebec City-based group headed by Paul Racine and Marcel Aubut. They were named the Nordiques because they were one of the northernmost teams in professional sports in North America.
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 defenceman 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. They represented Canada at the Izvestia Hockey Tournament in Moscow, finishing last with an 0-3-1 record.
By 1978, the WHA was on shaky ground, and Aubut, by then the team's President under ownership of the Carling-O'Keefe Brewery, began putting out feelers to the NHL. 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.
The 1980s[edit | edit source]
The WHA insisted on including all of its surviving Canadian teams, including the Nordiques, among the teams taken into the NHL at the end of the 1978-79 season. As a result, the Nordiques entered the NHL along with the Whalers, Oilers and Jets.
Forced to let all but three players go in a dispersal draft, the Nordiques sunk to the bottom of the standings. They finished the 1979-80 NHL season last in their division despite the play of promising rookie left winger Michel Goulet. An early highlight to the otherwise dreary season came when Real Cloutier became the second (following Alex Smart) NHL player ever to score a hat trick in his first NHL game.
In 1980 the Nordiques signed Anton Stastny, a member of the Czechoslovak national team, and a Nordiques' draft choice, who defected earlier that year. His brothers, Peter and Marian, would soon follow and also sign with Quebec. The following season, led by Peter Stastny's 109-point Calder Trophy-winning performance, the Nordiques made the NHL playoffs for the first time, but fell in the best-of-five opening round in five games to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Led by Goulet and Peter Stastny, the Nordiques made the playoffs eight years in a row. In 1981-82, despite notching only 82 points in the regular season, they defeated the Montreal Canadiens and then the Boston Bruins, both in winner-take-all games on the road. Their Cinderella run ended when they were swept by the New York Islanders in the conference finals.
The rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens intensified during the 1983-84 NHL season culminating in the infamous "Vendredi Saint" brawl during the 1984 playoffs. The Habs scored five unanswered goals in the third period of Game 6 at the Montreal Forum to eliminate the Nordiques. The goals all came after Peter Stastny and Dale Hunter were ejected in the brawl.
In 1984-85, Montreal and Quebec battled for the Adams Division championship. The Nordiques finished with 91 points, at the time their highest point total as an NHL team. However, the Habs won the division by three points - solidified by a 7-1 Canadiens trashing of the Nordiques at The Forum in the final week of the regular season. The Nordiques would exact revenge in the Adams finals with a seven-game victory, which was clinched by Peter Stastny's overtime goal at the Forum. They then took the powerful Philadelphia Flyers, who had the league's best record, to six games.
The next season saw more of the Nords-Habs rivalry as the playoff series went to seven games, with the Canadiens coming out on top. In that same season, when Quebec hosted Rendez-Vous '87, an alteration of the All-Star Game to include the Soviet national team, 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. Badaboum was created for Rendez-Vous, but created such a following that the Nordiques made it a permanent fixture at home games.
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. 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 over two seasons, but the 38-year-old was still among the team's best players while receiving diminished ice time. The Nords finished with only 12 wins and 31 points.
Both Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny were traded in 1990, winding up with the Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils respectively. Despite the stellar play of young forward Joe Sakic, the Nordiques struggled throughout the late '80s and early '90s. They hit rock bottom in 1989-90, finishing with a hideous record of 12-61-7--the worst in franchise history, and the second of three straight seasons with the worst record in the league. However, in that year's draft they drafted Swedish prospect Mats Sundin, making him the first European to be selected first overall in the NHL draft. The following year Quebec chose first again, taking Owen Nolan.
The 1990s[edit | edit source]
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 Nords picked 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 with another dreadful season in 1991-92, missing the 70-point barrier for the fifth year in a row.
Finally on June 30, 1992, after confusion over whether Quebec had traded Lindros' rights 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, defencemen Steve Duchesne and Kerry Huffman, "future considerations" (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 - transformed the Nordiques from league doormats to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender almost overnight.
During the 1992-93 NHL season, these new players, along with Sakic - now a bona fide NHL All-Star -and the rapidly developing Sundin and Nolan, led Quebec to the biggest single-season improvement in NHL history. The Nordiques jumped from 52 points in the previous year to 104--in the process, going from the second-worst record in the league to the fourth-best. They made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, but fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Canadiens in the first round. They would miss the playoffs the next season as they struggled with injuries.
The Lindros deal is a strong contender for one of the most one-sided trades not merely in NHL history, but professional sports history. Forsberg won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1995, his first season with the Nordiques, and would be one of the cornerstones of the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise for almost a decade. Ricci would give three useful seasons to the franchise before being traded, while Hextall was moved after a single season 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.
Season-by-Season Record[edit | edit source]
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
|1979-80||80||25||44||11||61||248||313||1062||5th, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1980-81||80||30||32||18||78||314||318||1524||4th, Adams||Lost Preliminary Round (Philadelphia)|
|1981-82||80||33||31||16||82||356||345||1757||4th, Adams||Won Adams Semifinal (Montreal),|
Won Adams Final (Boston),
Lost Wales Conference Final (NY Islanders)
|1982-83||80||34||34||12||80||343||336||1648||4th, Adams||Lost Adams Semifinal (Boston)|
|1983-84||80||42||28||10||94||360||278||1600||3rd, Adams||Won Adams Semifinal (Buffalo),|
Lost Adams Final (Montreal)
|1984-85||80||41||30||9||91||323||275||1643||2nd, Adams||Won Adams Semifinal (Buffalo)|
Won Adams Final (Montreal)
Lost Wales Conference Final (Philadelphia)
|1985-86||80||43||31||6||92||330||289||1847||1st, Adams||Lost Adams Semifinal (Hartford)|
|1986-87||80||31||39||10||72||267||276||1741||4th, Adams||Won Adams Semifinal (Hartford)|
Lost Adams Final (Montreal)
|1987-88||80||32||43||5||69||271||306||2042||5th, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1988-89||80||27||46||7||61||269||342||2004||5th, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1989-90||80||12||61||7||31||240||407||2104||5th, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1990-91||80||16||50||14||46||236||354||1741||5th, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1991-92||80||20||48||12||52||255||318||2044||5th, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1992-93||84||47||27||10||104||351||300||1846||2nd, Adams||Lost Adams Semifinal (Montreal)|
|1993-94||84||34||42||8||76||277||292||1625||5th, Northeast||Did not qualify|
|1994-951||48||30||13||5||65||185||134||770||1st, Northeast||Lost Eastern Quarterfinal (NY Rangers)|
- 1 Season was shortened due to the 1994-95 NHL lockout.
Move to Denver[edit | edit source]
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. In the shortened season of 48 games, the Nordiques played well and finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference. However, the team faltered in the postseason and was 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, even in the face of renewed fan support over the previous three years. Quebec City was by far the smallest market in the NHL, and the second-smallest market in North America to host a big-league team (behind only Green Bay, Wisconsin). The league's Canadian teams (with the exception of Montreal, Toronto, and to a lesser extent, Vancouver) found it difficult to compete in a new age of rising player salaries. This made many of the players concerned about their marketability, especially since the Nords always played in the long shadow of the Canadiens. In addition, most players were skittish about playing in what was virtually a unilingual Francophone city. Then as now, there were no privately-owned English language radio stations in the city, and only one privately-owned English language television station. The only English-language newspaper is a weekly. Unlike in Montreal, public address announcements were given only in French.
Aubut asked for a bailout from Quebec's provincial government. It didn't go 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. The franchise was moved to Denver where it was renamed the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche would win the Stanley Cup in their first season after the move, and add another in 2001.
The Nordiques had planned to change their logo, colours, and uniforms for the 1995-96 season, and the new design had already appeared in the Canadian press.
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 former Nordiques are still active in professional hockey, including Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, Owen Nolan, Jocelyn Thibault, Chris Simon, Martin Rucinsky, Martin Gelinas, Aaron Miller and Adam Foote. Joe Sakic is the only Nordique still with the Quebec/Colorado franchise, although Milan Hejduk was selected #87 overall by the Nordiques at the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. Chris Drury, currently playing for the New York Rangers, was also drafted by the Nordiques in 1994, but didn't play for the franchise until the 1998-1999 season, after the team had already moved to Colorado.
Notable Players[edit | edit source]
Team Captains[edit | edit source]
Includes WHA captains
- Michel Goulet, LW, 1979-1990, inducted 1998
- Guy Lafleur, RW, 1989-91, inducted 1988
- Jacques Plante, coach, 1973-1974, inducted 1978
- Peter Stastny, C, 1980-1990, inducted 1998
- Maurice Richard, coach, 1972-1973, inducted 1961
Retired Numbers[edit | edit source]
- 3 - J.C. Tremblay, D, 1972-79
- 8 - Marc Tardif, LW, 1974-83
- 16 - Michel Goulet, C, 1979-90
- 26 - Peter Stastny, C, 1980-90
First round draft picks[edit | edit source]
Note: This list does not include selections from the WHA.
- 1979: Michel Goulet (20th overall)
- 1980: none
- 1981: Randy Moller (11th overall)
- 1982: David Shaw (13th overall)
- 1983: none
- 1984: Trevor Stienburg (15th overall)
- 1985: David Latta (15th overall)
- 1986: Ken McRae (18th overall)
- 1987: Bryan Fogarty (9th overall) and Joe Sakic (15th overall)
- 1988: Curtis Leschyshyn (3rd overall) and Daniel Dore (5th overall)
- 1989: Mats Sundin (1st overall)
- 1990: Owen Nolan (1st overall)
- 1991: Eric Lindros (1st overall)
- 1992: Todd Warriner (4th overall)
- 1993: Jocelyn Thibault (10th overall) and Adam Deadmarsh (14th overall)
- 1994: Wade Belak (12th overall) and Jeff Kealty (22nd overall)
See Also[edit | edit source]
- List of Quebec Nordiques players
- Head Coaches of the Quebec Nordiques
- List of defunct NHL teams
- Colorado Avalanche
- Quebec Bulldogs
- World Hockey Association
- List of NHL seasons
- List of WHA seasons
References[edit | edit source]
External Links[edit | edit source]
- Quebec Nordiques Preservation Society
- WHAhockey.com - Quebec Nordiques
- RetourDesNordiques.com Group
- QuebecLNH.com Group
|National Hockey League|