Carolina Hurricanes fans have grown weary of hearing rumors about Quebec City seeking an NHL team and the Canes possibly being bought and relocated.
Imagine playing hockey this past season, in Quebec, as a member of the Hurricanes’ organization.
Goalie Callum Booth was drafted by Carolina in the fourth round last year, 93rd overall. He has played the past three seasons for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), who this year moved into the new Centre Videotron.
The Videotron is owned and managed by Quebecor, the media company that made an expansion bid to the NHL, with the new $400 million arena an expensive enticement. Nor did it hurt that the Remparts often played to crowds of 14,000 and 15,000 in 18,259-seat arena.
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Quebec led the CHL in home attendance with 13,835 a game, about 4,800 more than the second-place London Knights of the OHL. The Halifax Mooseheads were second in the QMJHL at 6,893.
“It’s amazing,” Booth said. “It’s such a privilege to play in that facility. We were really lucky to get the fan support we got. We got about 13,500 or 14,000 on average. The fans are very enthusiastic and it was amazing to put a dent in that building every night.”
There was speculation the Quebecor ownership group, if turned down on expansion, might attempt to buy the Hurricanes from owner Peter Karmanos Jr. The group, which was willing to pay $500 million for an expansion franchise, then would seek league approval on moving the team.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has constantly tried to squelch any relocation rumors, insisting the Canes will not be moving from Raleigh, even as the league awarded an expansion franchise to Las Vegas.
As for Booth, all he could do is play. A QMJHL rookie all-star in 2013-14, the 6-foot-3, 197-pound goaltender went 23-13-2 in 2014-15 and was 16-15-5 this past season.
Booth, 19, is attending the Canes’ development camp this week and has faced such forwards as Julien Gauthier, a first-round pick by Carolina this year out of Val-d’Or, and Nicolas Roy of Chicoutimi in the QMJHL. (Roy was ill Thursday and missed camp).
As the Remparts’ season was winding down, the relocation rumors intensified. They intensified even more in late June after Quebecor’s expansion bid was deferred by the NHL.
Pierre Dion, CEO of Quebecor, was at Bettman’s expansion announcement in Las Vegas and said, “We look forward to continuing the discussion with the NHL.”
“For sure, Quebecers are very enthusiastic about their hockey,” said Booth, a Montreal native. “They love their hockey and their Nordiques.
“You ask any Quebecer and they’re very eager to get a team back. In the meantime, they’re doing an amazing job supporting us.”
Asked about the Canes-to-Quebec scuttlebutt, Booth smiled. One can’t be in Quebec and not hear it.
“Oh, there’s tons of rumors around,” he said. “Obviously they deserve a team at some point in such a great building like that and I really hope they get one sometime soon.”
Just not the Canes?
“Not this one,” Booth said, smiling again.