One may wonder what exactly a Nordique is. Well, it’s simple: Quebec City, Quebec was one of the most northern professional sports cities in North America, and since there’s a whole lot of north going on in this sentence, you can guess that “Nordique” means “Northerner” in French. Okay, I shouldn’t have expected you to be able to guess that unless you’re from the area, know a bunch about hockey, or speak French.
The Quebec Nordiques are now the Colorado Avalanche and have been since 1995, however, the Canadian franchise had an interesting history from 1979 up until they packed up and moved to the Mile High City. I say interesting because of three reasons. Reason first, they never won or even reached a Stanley Cup; reason second, the Montreal Canadians (reference 4/20/1984 and the 1992-1993 season as prime examples); and reason third, well, there is no third reason except for the fact that I would like to bring to your attention that relocating a franchise really sucks for fans – especially when they move a professional team that competes in hockey from Canada to the United States. Here’s a fun unrelated fact: did you know that Canada’s national sport is actually Lacrosse? I would have guessed hockey, then curling, then moose hunting, then probably something else, then maybe lacrosse. Interesting – shows how much I know about anything.
Anyway, along the way there have been some great Nordiques, some bad Nordiques, and a logo that people still haven’t decided was cool or weird. Let’s explore the North.
15 BEST: JEAN-CLAUDE TREMBLAY
We’re already starting off in the gray area, but we have to give credit where credit is due. The Quebec Nordiques did not become an NHL franchise until 1979-1980, and Jean-Claude Tremblay’s final season with the team was 1978-1979. Just missed the cut! However, if it wasn’t for his stellar play, the Nordiques may have not have had the confidence, talent, following, and finances to make the jump to the World’s best league. Okay, sure, he played for the World Hockey Association while with Quebec and there was potential to the new league because it’s not like he was a bad player or anything – he did win five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadians so he had the NHL experience. That’s pretty good if you’re into those sorts of things. The Quebec-native has a street and an arena named after him which is also pretty good. Could you imagine? “There’s a pile up on northbound Carl Knauf Boulevard,” or “The new WNBA franchise call the Carl Knauf Arena home.” Cool.
14 WORST: ERIC LINDROS
Eric Lindros was a stubborn player, and he proved that right at the beginning of his career. This is another gray area ranking because Lindros never actually played a game for the Quebec Nordiques, and he made it clear he never wanted to. With that being said, the Nordiques still drafted him first overall in 1991. I guess when someone says they don’t want to do something it really means they do. I’ve seen enough Law & Order: SVU episodes to realize “no” truly means “no” despite what fraternity brothers claim. That was inappropriate. Anyway, Lindros didn’t want to play in Quebec because of distance, a small market, and the possibility of learning French. Long story short, he had a Hall-of-Fame career and the Nordiques received some great players who didn’t decide to win a Stanley Cup until after they moved from Quebec. I guess it kind of worked out for everyone except Quebec. It also proved that Lindros is kind of a jerk.
13 BEST: MARC TARDIF
Another Quebec-native and another ex-Montreal Canadian. Unlike J.C. Tremblay, Marc Tardif only won one Stanley Cup. What an amateur. However, he also signed on to participate in the WHA and eventually landed with the Quebec Nordiques where he became a star. His stellar play continued for the franchise after the transition from the WHA to the NHL as well. Though the Nordiques never won a Stanley Cup, Tardif did help them achieve ultimate glory by leading the franchise to a WHA Championship, and also posted a 154-point season the following year. Of course he would be on this list for his four NHL seasons that followed. One other thing to note: he proved that great players become targets of goons. Tardif suffered head injuries complements of Calgary Cowboy Rick Jodzio during a WHA postseason game – this is important because it was one of the first cases where a hockey player was charged with assault in court for his actions on the ice. And people say football is a violent sport.
12 WORST: STEVEN FINN
I’m beginning to think that all hockey players are born in Quebec – at least the ones who played for the Nordiques. Keep it local! Steven Finn was actually a very solid hockey player and a good Quebec Nordique during his 10 seasons with the team, but he lands on the worst side of things for two reasons. Reason first, he was one of the least-productive Nordiques during their last season in Quebec so the blame to fail to keep them in town solely lands on his shoulders obviously, and reason second, he was guilty of the second most penalty minutes in franchise history with a whopping 1514. That’s a lot of time to think about what you’ve done, Steven. However, this is hockey so that is somewhat of a badge of honor. However to the however, if you’re not producing while you’re not in the sin bin then it doesn’t really balance out and you’re just hurting the team.
11 BEST: PETER FORSBERG
You would think Peter Forsberg would be higher on this list, but remember, his success was mostly in Colorado after the franchise had moved. However, he did spend his first NHL season while the Quebec Nordiques were still in Canada and he certainly lived up to expectations. Luckily for Quebec, when Eric Lindros was acting like a jerk and wanted to be traded immediately after being drafted, the Nordiques received Forsberg in return. In his 47 games in Quebec, Peter averaged over a point a game and had a +/- of 17 which is definitely admirable. The future was bright, but it was too late. Want to know something that really sucks? In his first full season (1995-1996 as a member of the Avalanche) he registered 116 points. Not too shabby. Oh, and they also won the Stanley Cup. That really really sucks for fans in Quebec. That could have been their parade!
10 WORST: GUY LaFLEUR
It always seems a little odd when we put Hall-of-Famers on the worst side of things, but nobody’s perfect, and if they are, then they’re lying. You can use that saying if you would like. Guy LaFleur, or “The Flower” as many know him as, was an incredible player. If you don’t believe me, this stat alone proves my point: he’s the leading scorer in Montreal Canadians’ history, and to accomplish such within that storied franchise is pretty amazing. Not enough? Okay, how about a couple MVPs, five Stanley Cups, and a retired number? I’m glad we’re in agreement. He’s one of three players to play in the NHL after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and his celebration tour included his final two hockey seasons with the Quebec Nordiques. However, the Quebec-native (seriously, I’m telling you, everyone is from that province) had his worst years as a professional with his new team, notching only 34 and 28 points in his two seasons respectively.
9 BEST: MATS SUNDIN
Mats Sundin was the first European-born player to ever be drafted first overall when the Quebec Nordiques selected the Swedish center in 1989. He didn’t disappoint: he tallied his first goal in his first NHL game and finished second on the team in points during his first full season. He eventually finished as the sixth best scorer in Nordiques’ history and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. Unfortunately for Sundin, he left Quebec in 1994 and didn’t make the move to Denver with the rest of franchise which means he didn’t win a Stanley Cup shortly after – and he never hoisted the trophy during his storied career. However, he did win a gold medal in 2006 which is pretty cool I guess. I really don’t think he wanted to leave Canada because the NHL teams he competed for were Quebec, Toronto, and Vancouver. Talk about being picky. I could have said, “pucky,” there, but decided against it.
8 WORST: MIKE HURLBUT
What an unfortunate last name! When you have hurl and but combining for a surname, the kids in school are almost guaranteed to be brutal. However, when you’re a hockey player, no one picks on you. Mike Hurlbut wasn’t always a Quebec Nordique, in fact, he only played one game for the team during the 1993-1994 season. In that game, he did absolutely nothing. He didn’t have a goal, he didn’t have an assist, and he didn’t even get into the penalty box. Wait, I’m sorry, he did have a +/- of -1 so at least he was on the ice when a goal was let in, and being a defenseman, that usually isn’t something to brag about. However, Hurlbut had a decent career in the minors and college which is worthy of note, but if you made it to the NHL then that is probably the case for most skaters – unless they beat the system somehow.
7 BEST: DALE HUNTER
Dale Hunter’s number is retired in Washington, but he was loved in Quebec before then. He spent seven seasons with the Nordiques before being traded to the Capitals. After the fan-favorite left, the play of the franchise began to decline; however, they did receive a first-round pick in the exchange which they used to draft Joe Sakic (who you will learn more about shortly, just trust me). So they had two Hall-of-Famers who both had their jerseys retired, but neither hangs in the rafters in Quebec City. Who’s the real loser here? Don’t answer that; I’m sure people in Quebec aren’t losers. In his seven seasons, Hunter became the fifth best scorer in franchise history, and what is really amazing is that he dominated even more in Washington. The only real difference between him and Sakic are 168 points and a Stanley Cup… and they were born in almost-opposite ends of Canada – surprisingly neither in Quebec!
6 WORST: KEVIN KAMINSKI
Kevin Kaminski and Mike Hurlbut have something in common: they both never registered a point with the Quebec Nordiques. However, Kaminski played in six games and still couldn’t get the job done – and he was a center which usually means he would have more opportunities. To add to this madness, he actually spent 45 minutes in the penalty box during those six games. He was a typical goon, an enforcer who lessened his team’s chance at winning a game. Well, his nickname was “killer” so what else would the Nordiques expect? If my math is correct, and it should be because I’m using a calculator, he spent seven and a half minutes in the sin bin a game. Sometimes it’s hard for teams to be awarded even three power plays throughout the entire 60 minutes, and this guy was gladly handing out about four each game on his own. Go get 'em, killer.
5 BEST: JOE SAKIC
Cool Joe Sakic. Wait, I think that’s Joe Montana’s nickname. No, wait, it’s that cigarette-puffing camel with the sunglasses – he’s pretty cool. Don’t smoke, kids! There are plenty of differences between a camel and a human athlete. For example, there are no camels in the Hockey Hall of Fame and Joe Sakic happens to be a member. He also has an MVP, Stanley Cups, and a gold medal. Though he’s part of the Colorado Avalanche’s front office now, and had plenty of success with the team as a player, his career started as a Quebec Nordique, and during his seven seasons he landed in the fourth spot on the franchise’s all-time scoring list, and that included three 100-plus-point seasons. Here’s a cool fact (get it, ice hockey): Peter Stastny – who you will hear about later (don't skip ahead!) – mentored Sakic when he joined the Nordiques, and in return, Sakic mentored Peter’s son, Paul, when he joined the Avalanche in 2006. Small world.
4 WORST: PAXTON SCHULTE
There was Mike Hurlbut, Kevin Kaminski, and then there was Paxton Schulte. Again, it’s not like these skaters are truly bad, but when you’re given a chance and don’t perform and then the chance is immediately ripped away it kind of sends the world a message that you’re not quite ready for Quebec Nordique hockey… and now, no one can be because of you. That was harsh and unnecessary. Schulte played in one game during the 1993-1994 season and, like Hurlbut, he didn’t do a damn thing. Actually, he got a penalty. So not only did you not do anything during your game, you actually hurt the team’s chances to win. I’m not even going to check if they won that game; I will just assume they didn’t. Schulte did also play for the Calgary Flames, but a majority of his career was spent skating for the Bracknell Bees of the BISL. Yep, that’s the British league, and yep, that really is a thing.
3 BEST: MICHEL GOULET
Another Hall-of-Famer, another Quebec-native. Michel Goulet was an extraordinary hockey player for the Quebec Nordiques. During the eighties, he had four consecutive seasons of 50 goals or more – he had a deadly shot and along with the grouping that makes up the top spot of this list (again, don’t skip ahead, you’re so close), the Nordiques were a formidable force during his tenure. He registered three above-100-point seasons and was seemingly unstoppable in the postseason as well. However, the rest of the team could be stopped obviously or they may have won a Stanley Cup and may even still be in Quebec if they had a couple pucks bounce their way. He finished his career as a Nordique with an impressive 945 points which ranks him second on the franchise’s all-time list. Most importantly, he maintained his awesome moustache during his career. That takes a lot of time and work.
2 WORST: THE 1989-90 QUEBEC NORDIQUES
I could leave it at this if I wanted to: The 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques ended the season with 31 points. However, I need to explain myself and you have time to waste. This team was surprisingly loaded with the likes of Michel Goulet, Joe Sakic, and Peter Statsny, but it only appeared all hunky-dory on paper. I mean, Guy LeFleur was even part of the team! These guys are all Hall-of-Famers and Sakic had 102 points that season! With that being said, you win as a team and you lose as a team, but just to place some blame anyway, let’s target the defense who let in 407 goals that year (last in the league, duh). More specifically: Joe Cirella, Steven Finn (who we already mentioned), Curits Leschyshyn, Mario Marois, and Michel Petit. They all played over 55 games that season and their +/- was a combined (brace yourself) -184.
1 BEST: THE STATSNY BROTHERS
Man, were the Quebec Nordiques grateful these guys defected from Czechoslovakia. Quick note: don’t you all find it weird that everywhere Peter, Anton, and Marian Statsny leave just completely falls apart and doesn’t exist anymore? Okay, just two places. As history and geography buffs will remind you, Czechoslovakia was politically divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia (I think – there’s a lot more to it, but we’re talking about hockey) and the Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche. It doesn’t matter though; these three brothers all played for the Nordiques at the same time and did wonders for the team, becoming the faces of the franchise really. Peter, Anton, and Marian all rank in the top ten of the franchise’s all-time scoring list (one, three, and 10 respectively). They are a great hockey family as their sons have also starred at a professional level. Hockey wasn’t just a sport for these men; it was an opportunity for a better life, and they took the risk. It was well-earned and well-deserved.
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