The Nordiques had a really great relationship with Quebec City, but like so many couples, money drove them apart. A combination of factors led to the team’s financial downfall. The increasing popularity of hockey led to higher player salaries, which was a problem compounded by the US-Canadian exchange rate (the Canadian dollar was worth about $0.70 American). The Nordiques revenues were earned in Canadian dollars, but player salaries were paid in US dollars, which made them an expensive team. Not to mention the fact that Quebec City was just too small to support the team.
The Nordiques requested a bailout from the Provincial Government, but they were denied. They had no other option but to move. COSMAT, the same group that owned the Denver Nuggets, purchased the team and moved them to Colorado. This whole incident led to the creation of the Canadian Assistance Plan, a system by which the NHL subsidizes the remaining Canadian teams to make sure they still make money off of Canadian TV… uh… I mean… to make sure that the legacy of Canadian hockey stays strong.
However, as any recent divorcée will tell you, the process of changing your name is one of the most difficult things about legally separating from your ex. The Nordiques new ownership wanted to change their name to the Rocky Mountain Extreme (in an attempt to keep it regional and attract fans from states outside Colorado). Hockey fans everywhere can thank Denver Post reporter Adrian Dater for putting an end to that. Dater says when he broke the story, “all I remember was [Dave] Logan fielding call after call during his afternoon radio talk show from fans just ripping the hell out of the hockey team’s new name. It was just an, ahem, avalanche of negative public opinion.”
Denver comedian and writer Ryan Mattingly told us, “Within about 24 hours, a huge number of the pre-sold season ticket purchasers were asking for refunds because the name was so stupid. I remember the day I heard that Denver was getting an NHL team. I called my friend Andy and we were freaking out. So happy. Then two days later when we heard the proposed name, Andy called and we were in agreement that we couldn’t – in good conscience – root for a Mountain Dew commercial on ice.”
Thanks to public pressure, the Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche, and from there things only got better – they won the Stanley Cup in their first year in Denver.