Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nordiques Nation planning a new Big Apple power play

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QUEBEC -- They are calling it "the Times Square takeover."

On Saturday, about 2,000 members of Nordiques Nation, a Quebec City group seeking the return of professional hockey to the capital, plan to descend on Times Square in the heart of New York City in their continuing effort to persuade National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman to send an NHL team to the province's capital.

Bettman keeps saying the league has no plans for expansion and no intention to move an existing team, but Nordiques Nation and others in Quebec City won't take no for an answer.

Stephane Gasse, the afternoon man on Quebec City's Radio-X and one of the organizers of the event, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that Nordiques Nation has collected about $5,000 in pennies and will use the money to rent a 6.7-by-13.4-metre screen in Manhattan's Times Square.

"At 2 p.m., something will happen," Gasse said.

That is when a one-hour video show on the MTV screen will light up with the Nordiques Nation message.

NBC Sports, the New York Times, the New York Post and HBO have been alerted, Gasse said.

"It will be far from passing without notice," Gasse said. "That is the idea."

And the message?

"We exist and we love hockey," he said. "It's about the love of hockey."

The 32 buses carrying Nordiques Nation members, and another 400 to 500 people driving down in private autos, will later converge on the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., for a game between the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins.

This is the third Nordiques Nation operation. Last December, the blue-shirted horde first swooped down on New York.

That time, about 1,100 members of Nordiques Nation saw -- and were seen -- at a New York Islanders-Atlanta Thrashers game.

In February, between 700 and 800 Nordiques Nation members went to a Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs game at Montreal's Bell Centre.

Gasse says the decision by Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume and Premier Jean Charest to pay for a new $400-million "multi-functional amphitheatre" has boosted confidence in the Nordiques Nation that their dream will come true.

"If there is no amphitheatre, there is no team," Gasse said.

But even with the commitment to a new arena, Bettman was still playing hard to get, repeating that the league has no plans to move a team or create the NHL's 31st franchise.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2011 C2

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