(Nordiques de Québec)
|Home arena||Colisée de Québec|
|City||Quebec City, Quebec|
|Colours||Blue, white and red
|Avco World Trophy||1977|
|Division championships||1975, 1977, 1986, 1995|
The Quebec Nordiques (French: Nordiques de Québec, pronounced [nɔʀˈd͡zɪk] in Quebec French, /nɔrˈdiːks/ in Canadian English, meaning "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, Colorado in 1995 and renamed the Colorado Avalanche.
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. Quebec City is located at 46 degrees north latitude; the only WHA teams located further north were the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Cowboys, Vancouver Blazers and Winnipeg Jets.
The Nordiques' first head coach was the legendary Maurice "Rocket" Richard but he lasted two games, a 3–2 loss to the Cleveland Crusaders, and a 3-0 win against the Alberta Oilers. 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; the year also saw the debut of Real Cloutier, who would be one of the WHA's great stars. 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 the squad become a high-flying offensive juggernaut, becoming the only team in major professional history to have five players break 100 points (Tardif, Cloutier, Chris Bordeleau, Bernier and Houle). The season ended in disappointment as the Nordiques lost to the Calgary Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs, after losing Marc Tardif to injury after a controversial hit by the Cowboys' Rick Jodzio.
Despite injuries to Tardif and an aging Tremblay, 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, behind Bernier's record 36 points in 17 playoff games. 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.
As part of its merger with the NHL, 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 sank 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 August 1980 the Nordiques announced that they signed newly defected brothers Peter and Anton Stastny, members of the Czechoslovak national team, since they drafted Anton in the 1979 amateur draft. Their brother, Marian, would follow and also sign with Quebec in the summer of 1981. 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, otherwise known as the Good Friday Massacre, 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.
They won their first NHL division title in 1985–86 (and as it turned out, one of their two in Quebec, the other 1994-1995), but a defensive collapse in the playoffs allowed the Hartford Whalers to sweep the Nordiques in three 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 just for Rendez-Vous, but generated 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—the first of five straight years of finishing at the bottom of the Adams Division—and missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years. The slide continued: in 1988–89 they had the league's worst record.
Michel Bergeron, who had coached the team from 1980 to 1987, returned for 1989–90. The season was also highlighted by the arrival of Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur, who turned down a lucrative offer from the Los Angeles Kings so he could finish his career in his home province. 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 season saw the Nords hit rock bottom; they finished with a hideous record of 12–61–7 (31 points)--the second of three straight seasons with the worst record in the league, and still the worst record in franchise history.
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. 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.
In 1991, the Nordiques once again had the first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. They picked junior star Eric Lindros, even though he had let it be known well in advance that he would never play in Quebec. Among the reasons, Lindros cited distance, lack of marketing potential, and having to speak French. After the Nordiques selected him anyway, Lindros then 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 lasted over a year. The Nordiques president publicly announced that they would make Lindros the centerpiece of their franchise turnaround, and refused to trade Lindros, saying that he would not have a career in the NHL as long as he held out. Meanwhile, the Nordiques finished with another dreadful season in 1991–92, missing the 70-point barrier for the fifth year in a row.
Because of Lindros' popularity, the Nordiques soon came under significant pressure to trade him, allegedly from the league president, as it would otherwise damage the image of the NHL. Finally on June 30, 1992, after confusion over whether Quebec had traded Lindros' rights to the Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers was settled by an arbitrator, the Nordiques sent Lindros to the Flyers in exchange for forwards Peter Forsberg and Mike Ricci, goaltender Ron Hextall, defencemen 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. While Lindros had been initially hyped as the most valuable junior player in North America, being nicknamed "The Next One" as a nod to Wayne Gretzky's moniker "The Great One", the deal has since been considered by many columnists as the most significant NHL transaction of the decade, as well as one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history.
The deal transformed the Nordiques from league doormats to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender almost overnight. 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 six 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 Mark Fitzpatrick (who would go on to be left unprotected in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft in which he was claimed by the Florida Panthers) and a first round pick, which they used to select Adam Deadmarsh , who would be a key member of the Avalanche Cup-winning teams. Thibault would be traded for Montreal goalie Patrick Roy, after the franchise moved to Denver.
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 turnaround in NHL history. They leaped from 52 points in the previous season to 104—in the process, going from the second-worst record in the league to the fourth-best, as well as notching the franchise's first 100-point season as an NHL team. They made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, but fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Canadiens in the first round, winning the first two games but then losing the next four. Sakic and Sundin both scored over 100 points each, and head coach Pierre Page was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award.
The Nordiques missed the playoffs in 1993–94 as they struggled with injuries. After that season, Sundin was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in return for Wendel Clark. This trade was controversial for both teams, as Sundin was one of the Nordiques' rising talents, while Clark was the Leafs captain and fan favorite. While Clark performed respectably, he then became embroiled in a contract dispute after the season ended and was sent to the New York Islanders.
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 the Nordiques' 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. 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, which was made even more difficult by a weakening Canadian dollar (these teams' revenues are earned in Canadian, but salaries are paid in US). Quebec City was by far the smallest market in the NHL, and the second-smallest market in North America to host a major league team (behind only Green Bay, Wisconsin). It didn't help that even in their best years, they were unable to escape the long shadow of the Canadiens. Additionally, Quebec City is a virtually monolingual Francophone city. Unlike in Montreal, nearly all public address announcements were only given in French. Then as now, there were no privately-owned English-language radio stations, and the only English-language newspaper was a weekly. All of these factors severely limited the Nords' marketability, and made free agents and draftees (most notably Lindros) skeptical about playing for them.
Aubut asked for a bailout from Quebec's provincial government, but the request was turned down, as the politicians did not want to be seen to be subsidizing a hockey club that paid multimillion-dollar salaries. In May 1995, shortly after the Nordiques were eliminated from the playoffs, Aubut explained that he had no other choice but 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.
Only two players who suited up for the Nordiques are still active: Owen Nolan of the Minnesota Wild, and Adam Foote of the Colorado Avalanche. Peter Forsberg has yet to announce his official retirement from the NHL, and still plays hockey for Sweden in international play, and for MODO Hockey in the Swedish Elite League.
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.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals scored for, GA = Goals scored against, PIM = Penalty minutes
|1972–73||78||33||40||5||71||276||313||1354||fifth in Eastern||Did not qualify|
|1973–74||78||38||36||4||80||306||280||909||fifth in Eastern||Did not qualify|
|1974–75||78||46||32||0||92||331||299||1132||first in Canadian||Won Quarter-final (Phoenix)
Won Semifinal (Minnesota)
Lost Final (Houston)
|1975–76||81||50||27||4||104||371||316||1654||second in Canadian||Lost Quarter-final (Calgary)|
|1976–77||81||47||31||3||97||353||295||1485||first in Eastern||Won Quarter-final (New England)
Won Semi-final (Indianapolis)
Won Final (Winnipeg)
|1977–78||80||40||37||3||83||349||347||1185||fourth in WHA||Won Quarter-final (Houston)
Lost Semi-final (New England)
|1978–79||80||41||34||5||87||288||271||1399||second in WHA||Lost Semi-final (Winnipeg)|
|1979–80||80||25||44||11||61||248||313||1062||fifth, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1980–81||80||30||32||18||78||314||318||1524||fourth, Adams||Lost in Preliminary Round (Philadelphia)|
|1981–82||80||33||31||16||82||356||345||1757||fourth, Adams||Won Adams Semi-final (Montreal),
Won Adams Final (Boston),
Lost Wales Conference Final (NY Islanders)
|1982–83||80||34||34||12||80||343||336||1648||fourth, Adams||Lost Adams Semi-final (Boston)|
|1983–84||80||42||28||10||94||360||278||1600||third, Adams||Won Adams Semi-final (Buffalo),
Lost Adams Final (Montreal)
|1984–85||80||41||30||9||91||323||275||1643||second, Adams||Won Adams Semi-final (Buffalo)
Won Adams Final (Montreal)
Lost Wales Conference Final (Philadelphia)
|1985–86||80||43||31||6||92||330||289||1847||first, Adams||Lost Adams Semi-final (Hartford)|
|1986–87||80||31||39||10||72||267||276||1741||fourth, Adams||Won Adams Semi-final (Hartford)
Lost Adams Final (Montreal)
|1987–88||80||32||43||5||69||271||306||2042||fifth, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1988–89||80||27||46||7||61||269||342||2004||fifth, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1989–90||80||12||61||7||31||240||407||2104||fifth, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1990–91||80||16||50||14||46||236||354||1741||fifth, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1991–92||80||20||48||12||52||255||318||2044||fifth, Adams||Did not qualify|
|1992–93||84||47||27||10||104||351||300||1846||second, Adams||Lost Adams Semi-final (Montreal)|
|1993–94||84||34||42||8||76||277||292||1625||fifth, Northeast||Did not qualify|
|1994–951||48||30||13||5||65||185||134||770||first, Northeast||Lost Eastern Quarter-final (NY Rangers)|
Includes WHA captains
After the move to Denver, the Avalanche did not honor any of these numbers, all of which were returned to circulation.
Note: This list does not include selections from the WHA.
These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise (Quebec and Colorado) history, as of the end of the 2008–09 season. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.
Legend: Pos = Position; GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Avalanche player
The Quebec Nordiques (French: Nordiques de Québec, pronounced [nɔʀˈd͡zɪk] in Quebec French, IPA: /nɔrˈdiːks/ in Canadian English, meaning "Northmen" or "Northerners") were a professional ice hockey team from Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. The Nordiques played in the World Hockey Association (1972–1979) and the National Hockey League (1979–1995). The team moved to Denver, Colorado in 1995 and changed their name to the Colorado Avalanche.