Friday, March 9, 2012

The Bear Maximum: Postgame Recap 3/3: Bonjour Quebecois

The Bear Maximum: Postgame Recap 3/3: Bonjour Quebecois: On May 16, 1995, the Quebec Nordiques lost to the New York Rangers 4-2 at Madison Square Garden in game 6 of their eastern conference quarte...

Postgame Recap 3/3: Bonjour Quebecois

On May 16, 1995, the Quebec Nordiques lost to the New York Rangers 4-2 at Madison Square Garden in game 6 of their eastern conference quarterfinal matchup.

It was to be their last ever appearance sporting the fleur de lis on the sweaters.

Operating in one of the smallest home markets in all of professional sports and a predominantly Francophone one to boot, the Nordiques were hit hard by the lockout. Ownership had major issues with marketing and keeping the franchise afloat.  Eventually, the owners sought a buyer. The team, featuring such stars as Joe Sakic, Owen Nolan, Wendell Clark and a Swedish rookie sensation named Peter Forsberg, packed up their things and made the move to the Rockies as they became the Colorado Avalanche.

The following season, backed by the acquisition of Hall of Fame goalie to be Patrick Roy, the rebranded franchise went on to hoist Lord Stanley's chalice, sweeping the upstart Florida Panthers 4 games to none.

All the while, a rabid fanbase in Quebec City was left emptyhanded and longing.

Years later, a group of fans took it upon themselves to bring together Quebecers who shared their love of their former NHL team.  Through social and traditional media, thousands of fans were drawn together in their love of the past and hope for the future.  The result was Nordiques Nation.

In the last couple of seasons, Nordiques Nation has organized trips to NHL stadiums in various cities, bringing busloads upon busloads of blue-clad fans aiming to let the league know that there is a large, supportive fanbase in Quebec City just dying to get a franchise back.  In the regular season ending game at Newark, Nordiques Nation was out in full force as the Devils beat the Bruins last April.

For the current season, NN has organized a five game slate of forays to NHL arenas.  The Bruins -Islanders game was the fourth trip on their schedule. When I found out that Le Quebecois were coming to town, I was excited.  After all, these folks hate the Habs just as much as we do.

So it was with great anticipation that I awaited our bon amis from la belle provence.  Let's see what I found:

This is our buddy Lemay.  I don't usually feature non-player customized sweaters, but this one was done up right; proper numbering and that baby blue is so very underrated.  Plus, he ended up sitting behind us in 307 and we had fun talking to him and his heavily accented English.

Sadly, he had no idea who Moe Lemay was.

Circa 1989-90 Guy Lafleur Nordiques home

Oh, the irony.  It was bad enough that Lafleur made his hall of fame bones playing for the Canadiens during their dynasty run in the 70s, then retiring in 1985.  He was then elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988. Not content to sit on the sidelines, he came back to the NHL at age 37, spending one year with the Rangers before jumping ship to the Nordiques for two final seasons. Yep - the team from Quebec City, who just so happened to be one of the Habs' biggest rivals.

And just to remind you - Lafleur was the bastard who scored the OT winner in the "Too many men on the ice" game in 1979.  Eff him.

So I have to chuckle, just a bit, when I see this guy wearing a Lafleur sweater with a "Habs Hater" t-shirt wrapped around his waist.

Mid 80s Dale Hunter Nordiques Away

Well, I'm fairly certain that this used to be a Dale Hunter sweater.  The rubberized lettering has peeled off and the backing is all that remains.

But Dale Hunter sucks. And that's even without discussing his coaching record this season with the Capitals.

'Nuf said.

1994-5 Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg Nordiques Away

Two of the best players to ever wear the fleur de lis (even though Foppa played only one year in Quebec before the team moved out west), commemorated in these stunning replicas.

Now, keep in mind that none of these fine articles of apparel can hold a candle to what is the best Nordiques sweater I've ever seen:

You might remember this beauty from my last blog entry.  If you haven't read it (and why the hell haven't you?), this is an extremely rare Claude Julien Nordiques away replica. No other Nordiques could ever compare.  Okay, perhaps a Paul Stewart one might get somewhat close.

Considering that these folks (at least the older ones) used to root for a team that was in the same division as the Bruins, it was a bit strange to see so many members of Nordiques Nation wearing Bruins gear and openly rooting for the home team.  But then again, we share a common hatred of the Canadiens.  But it was nice to see so many people who had come down to have a good time, see some hockey and hopefully spread the Gospel of Quebec hockey.  They were a great group to talk to and I wish them the best in the future. Hopefully someday we'll be able to reciprocate the goodwill at a game at Le Colisee (or it's modern replacement).