Monday, June 21, 2010
On this date in 1995, the NHL gave their approval for the sale of the Quebec Nordiques which resulted in their relocation to Denver, Colorado.
Originally founded in 1972 as one of the original 12 WHA franchises, the Nordiques played seven seasons in the WHA, winning the championship once in 1977.
While the league folded following the 1978-79 season, four of the league's strongest and most stable franchises would enter the NHL as "expansion" franchises, which included the Nordiques.
Life in the NHL proved both exciting and difficult. The Nordiques rivalry with Quebec neighbors the Montreal Canadiens provided some of the most intense battles of the 1980's. After missing the playoffs in 1980, the Nordiques made the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons, including a division title in 1986 and a pair of trips to the conference finals in 1982 and 1985.
Sadly for fans of the Nordiques, the club fell on some very hard times after 1987, missing the playoffs six out of the next seven seasons, including a horrid run from 1988-89 to 1991-92 when the club won a total of 75 games, an average of less than 19 per season, including last place finishes in 1988-89, 1989-90 (33 points behind the second worst team, more than the 31 they actually scored!) and 1990-91.
The Nordiques used the resulting draft picks to select players such as Mats Sundin and Adam Foote (1989), Owen Nolan (1990), Eric Lindros (1991), who they converted into Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Steve Duchesne, Jocelyn Thibault and $15 millon, Adam Deadmarsh (1993). This, in addition to the selection of Joe Sakic (15th overall in 1987), gave the Nordiques a very bright future on the ice, as evidenced by their record-setting turnaround from a 52 point season in 1991-92 to a 104 point season in 1992-93, an improvement of 52 points in one year!
Unfortunately, the future did not look the same off the ice. The weak Canadian dollar hampered the bottom line, as the team's revenues came in Canadian dollars but player salaries were paid in US dollars. No doubt the small size of Quebec City worked against the team and the exclusive use of French in the city both hurt it's ability to attract certain players, sponsorships and contracts with radio and TV outlets. It's home arena, the Colisee de Quebec, bulit in 1949 and it's smaller 15,750 capacity also limited the team's finances.
Nordiques president Marcel Aubut sought financial help from the Quebec provincial government as well as a new publicly funded arena, which was turned down. Eventually the club was sold to Comsat Entertainment Group, already owners of the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, who relocated the team to Denver, Colorado for the 1995-96 season - a year in which they proceeded to immediately win the Stanley Cup with a roster full of players selected to be Nordiques.
Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 Quebec Nordiques prototype jersey. The original 1972 Nordiques jerseys used light blue had a considerable amount of red on both the shoulders and waist stripe. The following season the blue was changed to a considerably darker shade and the amount of red was limited to the shoulders on the home jerseys and narrower striping.
The familiar Nordiques style was adopted in 1975 and remained in use through the Nordiques final season in Quebec twenty years later, although a new jersey with a modernized logo was unveiled on March 30, 1995 which was originally intended to be worn by the Nordiques in 1995-96, only it's been reported that the club missed the deadline for approval of the jersey in time for the start of the season and the jersey was now scheduled to become the team's new jerseys for the 1996-97 season, only to see the club relocate to Denver, Colorado, where they would be renamed the Avalanche, leaving the now orphaned jerseys to go forever unworn.
The only known photo of the original jerseys shows (not very thrilled) team executives (or perhaps journalists) modeling the sweaters, failing to show even the full length of the jerseys to reveal the intended waist striping.
None of these jerseys were ever mass produced for retail sale, although some attempts to create them have been made, but none in any great quantities and some less accurate than others.
We've tried to research these jerseys as best we can, but if you have any more details, corrections or additions to our research, feel free to let us know at