"Nordiques Nation," which is led by Vince Cauchon, a Quebec radio personality on 98.1 Radio X, will be making the 10 hour drive from Quebec City to Uniondale, NY for the game. Cauchon is leading 23 busloads of fans to the Coliseum according to Le Journal de Quebec.
The plan is that the large group of fans will sit in the lower bowl behind each net with light blue shirts that read 'Nordiques Nation." At the 15:00 mark of each period, the group plans to make a lot of noise to commemorate the 15 years it has been since the Nordiques left Quebec City for Denver. With rumors of relocation swirling for both the Thrashers and Islanders, the Nordiques supporters plan to make their voices heard in an attempt to help bring NHL hockey back to their hometown.
"We just want to show the N.H.L. that Quebec needs a team and is a better market," Cauchon told the New York Times. "Maybe a third of the markets in the N.H.L. aren't doing so well right now."
The Islanders' struggles have been well documented. The team has lost 18 of its last 19 games, fired its coach and is 29th in the NHL in attendance, averaging under 11,000 fans per game according to ESPN. The Islanders have two French Canadian players on their roster, PA Parenteau and Bruno Gervais. Le Journal spoke with Gervais in an article published today. Gervais spoke to Le Journal in French, the following quote is translated:
Despite "hosting" the rally during their game Saturday night, the Islanders are not the relocation targets of the Nordiques Nation. Cauchon spoke to the New York Times and said he has his sights set on the Atlanta Thrashers.
"The guys on the team who are aware of the visit of Quebec are very cool with it. I'm sure people will encourage Islanders anyway. And all the better if [there are] more people than usual in the stands! We do not control what happens outside of the ice and we just want to try to win that game."
"We have a lot of respect for the New York Islanders and what they accomplished in the past - the N.H.L. needs the Islanders," Cauchon said. "But it would be great, awesome, if the Thrashers moved. Atlanta is a great sports city, but it's not a hockey town. We're not going to New York to tell the N.H.L. they didn't do a good job going to Atlanta. We're going there to tell them in Quebec it would work."
In Atlanta, the attendance is similar to Long Island, although the team is playing well with a 15-10-3 record. However, there have been rumors that the Thrashers' owners are losing money and looking to sell the team or add additional partners. The Thrashers are 28th in the league in attendance, averaging almost 11,789 fans per game.
As of early Friday morning, there was no formal mention of any Nordiques rally on Radio X's website. There is, however, a link to NordiquesNation.com, the group's official website. There is also no mention of this event on the Nordiques Nation website or blog, which has not been updated since Oct. 5. Presumably, this has all been organized through Cauchon's voice on the airwaves and the newsletter visitors of NordiquesNation.com can subscribe to.
The Times reported that the group could be as large as 1,100. The Islanders last home game was this past Sunday against Philadephia where the announced attendance was 7,773. Saturday night should bring a bigger crowd but the Quebec contingent could easily make up 1/10th or even 1/8th of the total crowd. To say that their voices would be heard is an understatement. At last Sunday's game, a large portion of the audience were Flyer fans who could easily be heard without any formal gathering. It should be interesting to see if the group will be audible on the TV broadcast and if the broadcast announcers will give them any attention or mention.
If this group is as big as reported, it should be a surreal scene at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night. The group isn't targeting the Islanders but by making Long Island the stage for their rally, the Islanders are unfairly being put straight in the crosshairs. The Islanders have been the subject of relocation rumors more times than almost any other team over the last two decades but never have they manifested in such a way inside their own arena.
Despite the team's struggles and inept managment, it's hard to say that either the Islanders' fans or their management deserves this -- to potentially be made a spectacle of in their own building.
The Quebec Nordiques played in Quebec City, Quebec from 1972-1995. The Quebec market was the smallest NHL market at the time and was the second smallest market in North America to have a professional sports team. In 1995, the Nordiques were in bad financial shape and, with a weakening Canadian dollar, NHL teams all across Canada were hurting. The smallest market getting hurt the most. Owner Marcel Aubut cited these as reasons he was forced to sell the team. An investment group from Denver, Colorado bought and relocated the team now known as the Colorado Avalanche.