The Quebec government has rejected the Montreal Canadiens’ offer to play games for free in Quebec City, opting instead to pay up to $7 million for the L.A. Kings to play at the Videotron Centre.
The Canadiens confirmed that they had offered to play at no cost, a proposal that the government turned down.
L.A. will host the Boston Bruins in Quebec on October 3 before taking on the Florida Panthers two days later.
Quebec’s Finance Minister, Éric Girard, said that the decision will yield significant benefits with ticket prices ranging from $55 to $170 for games scheduled from Oct. 2 to Oct. 6, 2024..
The L.A. Kings, led by Montreal native team president Luc Robitaille and featuring two Quebecers, Philip Danault and Pierre-Luc Dubois, will play two games in Quebec City.
“If the president of the Kings wasn’t a Quebecer, they probably wouldn’t come here,” Girard told Pratt.
Girard likened the hockey game to government subsidies provided to other major events like the Memorial Cup, the Presidents Cup golf tournament and the Formula 1 race in Montreal.
However, the expenditure has been met with swift backlash from the public and political figures alike, criticizing the government’s spending choices in light of pressing economic issues.
The Canadiens hosted the last NHL exhibition game at the Videotron Centre in 2018 when they played the Washington Capitals.
The Videotron Centre was opened in September 2015, hoping to attract a potential NHL team. The building is currently home to the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
La Presse also reported on a document it received in the summer of 2022. The document noted municipalities in Quebec that were waiting for aid from Quebec to build or renovate a sports centre.
“The ministry had received a very large number of requests, far exceeding the financial envelope available for this program,” read the document.
Opposition leaders have been vocal in their disapproval.
Quebec Solidaire leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Quebec Conservative Party leader Eric Duhaime condemned the expenditure as misaligned with the needs of Quebecers struggling with inflation and rising living costs.
Duhaime issued a press release urging a cancellation of the subsidy to the L.A. Kings.
“The CAQ has no extra money for its employees, nor for taxpayers, but it does have billions for multinational battery companies and millions for an American NHL team,” Tweeted Duhaime.
Liberal MNA Gregory Kelley highlighted the urgent needs of food banks.
“Thousands of Quebecers are hungry. This is more important than two hockey games,” Tweeted Kelley.
Parti Quebecois MNA Joël Arseneau criticized the government’ priorities, juxtaposing this decision with cuts to essential services.