The birth of a small big team

The birth of a small big team


It was barely two years after the October Crisis, when Pierre Elliott Trudeau sent the army to the streets of the city of Montreal. In Rang 1 de Falardeau, we were afraid that the FLQ would kidnap the manager of the Caisse populaire. PET had told Radio-Canada 

The announcement of the birth of the World Hockey Association (WHA) quickly interested the young part-time journalist that I was.

During the day, I was a Latin and Greek teacher at the Charles-Gravel high school and, from 4 a.m., a journalist for the Progrès-Dimanche, the big regional weekly.

I was assigned to cover the Chicoutimi city hall and everything that happened on Saturdays.

Nothing to do with sports. Sports, I practiced them, I did not talk about them. I was in my twenties.

The previous year, I had covered the mayoral campaign. Henri Girard had defeated outgoing mayor Gilles Tremblay.

And the Nordiques?

Exactly, I'm getting there.


My club was the Canadian. But these daring young people from Quebec had an extraordinary quality. They all spoke French, they had a blue sweater, even if it was an awful powder blue, reminiscent of René Lecavalier's blazers at the Soirée du hockey, and above all, one of their shareholders at 25 $000 was Gilles Tremblay, the former mayor of Chicoutimi.

I became passionate about everything related to the Nordiques and the WHA. So much so that, throughout the first season, in a small black 10-cent notebook, I noted the attendance at all the matches of the cursed circuit, as the colorful Claude Larochelle, of the Soleil.

I had already understood that it would go through the crowds at the matches. It was obvious that the New York Raiders would not survive. Nor the Ottawa Nationals. But the Nordics were holding up well. With the help of TVA, we could even follow their matches on Sunday evenings.

And see Gerry Cheevers and Paul Schmyr play with the Cleveland Crusaders. He wore the “K” to recall his Ukrainian origins. Not to mention Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe later, Marc Tardif with the Los Angeles Sharks, the Baby Bulls' gifted six in Birmingham, and Wayne Gretzky's debut in Indianapolis.


I was so passionate about it that I became a specialist in Nordique owners. The first ones. Paul Racine, John Dacres, notary Maurice Taschereau, Marius Fortier and others who joined them with $25,000 cells.

For years, before and after September 1972, I read all the lines and between the lines of what Claude Bédard and Claude Larochelle wrote. Two fierce competitors until 9 p.m.

Then, when the sports sections of the two newspapers – Le Soleil and Le Journal de Québec– were well underway, the two men met to have a coffee and share the information they had gleaned on the AMH. To help Quebec, to help a large village become a city. To ensure that the capital would not miss the chance to have a major caliber hockey team. These two men carried out combat journalism as one can no longer imagine. For their city. For francophones in Quebec who did not have access to the management of the Canadian, led by cousins ​​Bronfman and Sam Pollock. Then, by Morgan McGammon and Irving Grundman.

They contributed so much to the battle that, 15 years later, Marcel Aubut, Maurice Fillion and Michel Bergeron faced Ronald Corey, Serge Savard and Jacques Lemaire. 


And there, I enter a nebulous field. I can't find the documents. But regional sports historian François Lafortune confirms it, the Chicago Cougars came to play an exhibition match against the Nordiques at the Center Georges-Vézina. It would have happened on October 1 or 2, 1974. They had even come to sign the city hall's guest book. I was no doubt in the region that day, since I reported a whole conversation I had had in Chicoutimi with Jacques Demers, young assistant to the general manager of the Cougars in La Presse du October 15. 

After my arrival at La Pressein Montreal, where I worked on news items at night, I took advantage of my holidays to go down to Quebec to meet Serge Bernier, Jean-Claude Tremblay or Gordie Howe. These were my first sports collaborations. Before returning to cover the crimes when I return.

Me too, the Nordiques will have allowed me to access the National League!


Sometimes you get paid to have fun working. For two years, with producer Guy Villeneuve, from Fair-Play, and my colleague Mathias Brunet, we revisited the birth of the Nordiques in the WHA and the whole incredible saga of the rivalry between the Nordiques and the Canadian. 

Everything happened there. There is birth. Then the entry in extremis of the Fleurdelisés in the National League in 1979, eight months before the first referendum, until their departure… five months before the second referendum. During the 15 great years of Quebec inc. 

We conducted 83 interviews. Including Robert “Bob” Guindon, Michel Parizeau, the extraordinary Claude Bédard who has lived through everything from the epic, Mario Marois, Peter Stastny, Dale Hunter, Ken Dryden, Serge Savard, Guy Lafleur – his last long interview he has ended in tears…

People tried to capture the essence of these interviews totaling over 150 hours of video and edit them into eight episodes full of incredible archives. 

You will be able to judge for yourselves in November.

But I know one thing. Quebec was doing better with the Nordiques…

The birth of’ a small big team