SAN JOSE, Calif. — NHL Quebec City, doing business since the mid-’90s in Denver as the Colorado Avalanche, still has a chance of setting up shop again in La Belle Province.
According to Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, interested financial parties remain in regular contact with league headquarters in New York, ever hopeful that the NHL will land a franchise there again as it did with the NHL-WHA merger at the end of the 1970s.
“We’re in fairly regular touch with Quebec City,” said Daly. “They continue to have an interest in an NHL franchise. We’re not in a position to promise them one at this point, but the dialogue continues for sure.”
Meanwhile, the city’s 18,259-seat Videotron Centre, which opened in 2015, awaits a big league tenant. Shaped like a giant smoke detector, it was built on the hope it would entice NHL honchos to come back, giving the home province Canadiens a neighborhood rival.
The main factor working against Quebec City: the relative low number of corporations, and their spending power, within the immediate metro area. It’s an avid hockey fandom — as proven when the Nordiques were in residence — but it takes corporations to fill luxury suites and buy into lucrative advertising sponsorships.
Houston remains perhaps the ripest and richest potential contender to land another NHL franchise in the United States, following the recent approved addition of Seattle (to open in October 2021).
“There’s an interest in NHL hockey in Houston,” said Daly, echoing a sentiment long held by Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. “Houston is a very interesting and attractive market. Part of the issue is that they have one arena [Toyota Center] and the owner of the team [Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta] owns the facility, so there has to be an interest from that owner in wanting to use the facility of hockey.”
As for the market, Daly added, “I think NHL hockey could be very successful in Houston.”
The home state Dallas Stars are less than a 250-mile drive from Houston.
Coyne makes history
Former Northeastern winger Kendall Coyne, a two-time US Olympic medalist, stole some of the night’s spotlight in the Fastest Skater competition, tearing around the track in 14.346 seconds.
“Definitely top three in my career,” said Coyne, 26, asked where the night placed in her illustrious career.
Coyne is the first woman to compete in the annual Skills competition.
Edmonton captain Connor McDavid won the event for a third straight time, pocketing the $25,000 prize with a speed of 13.378, roughly a second better than Coyne. Former BU forward Clayton Keller finished eighth, one spot behind Coyne, at 14.526.
Coyne, not originally scheduled to participate here as a competitor, subbed for injured Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon, sidelined by a foot injury.
Pastrnak wins shooting event
David Pastrnak, the hottest goal-scoring hand in the Bruins lineup, was on fire at the NHL All-Star Skills competition, too, winning the Shooting Accuracy contest.
He topped the eight-man field with a time of 11.309 seconds.
The contest requires shooters to rip off pucks from short range in the slot, eliminating the five dinner-plate sized targets stationed around the net.
Pastrnak, hitting leadoff, made quick, efficient work of the task and was never pressed by a field that included former Bruin Blake Wheeler of Winnipeg, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, and Drew Doughty of Los Angeles.
During his news conference, Bettman offered his usual rosy picture about NHL business at large.
■ “The league is led now in so many ways by our young players, who are quickly making their marks – nine of the 11 players to hit the 60-point mark so far this season are age 25 or younger.”
■ Offense is on the uptick, with more than six goals a game being scored in games thus far this season. “That’s 6.1 to be precise,” said Bettman. “The last time we finished with that scoring pace is more than a decade ago.”
■ As of the All-Star break, said Bettman, a team erased a deficit and won in 345 games thus far in 2018-19 — a league record for this point in a season. That includes teams erasing multi-goal deficits 96 times en route to victory.
“This all demonstrates where our game is . . . ,” said Bettman, “. . . a competitive balance that keeps fans on the edge of their seats till the final horn sounds.”
Boston in running
Bettman said Boston remains on league radar for potential large future events, such as the All-Star Game and the draft . . . and potentially a third outdoor game.
“We are constantly talking to all of our clubs,” said Bettman, “and the Bruins are very vocal about wanting to continue in league events. As you can see from the schedule, we are trying to do some things we haven’t done before.”
Among those novel moves: the decision announced Jan. 1 this year to play the 2020 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl. Bettman announced here that the Stars will play the Nashville Predators in that game.