One-third of the Canadian Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has historically had the reputation as the league that features the most high-flying, smaller, high-scoring forwards and the stand-on-their-heads goaltenders.
Currently, the 18-team league features teams through the province of Quebec and a division of Maritime teams. Of the three CHL leagues, the QMJHL has the biggest variety of venues. From the brand new and shiny to the classic hockey barns, fans are treated to a whole different culture of hockey.
The scores for the QMJHL experiences are all very close and every experience features a high Return on Investment. Any way you slice it, fans will be left pontificating “Vive La hockey" and gearing up to head back for more.
Dave Cottenie - In 1997 the Québec Remparts returned to the Colisée Pepsi, moving from Beauport. With hockey returning to Québec, the next part of the plan was up to the fans. Fans came out to support the Remparts in droves providing attendance numbers unseen in the entire Canadian Hockey League, let alone the QMJHL.
With the ownership of hometown hero Patrick Roy for several years, the Remparts flourished. The current iteration of the Remparts is the second to call Québec City home. The original run went from 1969 to 1985 and the original Remparts eventually moved to Longueuil and then Verdun before folding in 1994. Both versions of the team have seen success with each version winning a Memorial Cup.
The 1971 and 2006 Memorial Cup championships continued the winning tradition in Québec City. The next part of the plan may be the most important. With the support of current Remparts owner, communications giant Québecor, the city and province of Québec built a brand new, NHL-ready facility in Centre Vidéotron.
Greg Johnston - The sparkling new $113-million dollar Avenir Centre opened in 2018 as the home of the Wildcats and Moncton Magic of the National Basketball League of Canada. The Wildcats previously played their home games at the city-owned Moncton Coliseum, located in a mostly industrial area approximately four kilometers outside of downtown.
The venue was dark and not aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but the citizens of Moncton made it an enjoyable fan experience. Moving to Avenir Centre provides locals with a modernized hockey experience with an improved downtown location, tantalizing concession options, and exceptional sightlines to view the game.
Dave Cottenie - Halifax is the biggest city in the Canadian Maritimes, and therefore is the cultural centre of the East. Even though Halifax is not an overly large city, events at the Metro Centre have that big event feel to them. Moose Country is front and centre in the Halifax sporting scene. The Scotiabank Centre, which is owned by the City of Halifax, and managed by Trade Centre Limited, offers a big event feel to it and attracts the largest indoor events in the area.
Dave Cottenie - The group that brought hockey back to Sherbrooke was led by former NHL goaltender, and former Sherbrooke Faucon, Jocelyn Thibault. However, the new Phoenix would not be satisfied to play in the old Palais des Sports.
The City of Sherbrooke and the Government of Quebec agreed to a huge renovation of the Palais des Sports Leopold-Drolet. This old arena, named after the founder of Sher-Wood, is now one of the model arenas in the QMJHL, and an example of what can be done to modernize an aging arena. New paint gave a fresh face to the arena, and new luxury boxes gave a fresh source of revenue.
In the end, what is exciting to see is that, in what may be the final opportunity for junior hockey in Sherbrooke, the fans have realized what they have been missing, and embraced the Phoenix with open arms, showing their support.
Dave Cottenie - Known as the City of Energy for its production of hydro-electric power, the city of Shawinigan is also known as the home of Canada’s longest-serving prime Minister, Jean Chretien, and legendary Montreal goaltender, and first goalie ever to wear a mask, Jacques Plante.
The Cataractes have a long-standing tradition with the city, formerly playing in the Arena Jacques-Plante. In English, Cataractes means “waterfalls,” which is also a reference to the Shawinigan Falls, which is used to produce energy. The Cataractes were a community-owned team, until 2007 when “Le Club de Hockey de Shawinigan Inc” was sold to a group of 15 investors.
Greg Johnston - Overall, the game experience is fun and comfortable. Fans were handed free clappers as they entered the arena to help cheer on the Sea Dogs. “Fleaburn,” the team mascot, entertains the crowd on the concourse. The public address (PA) announcer speaks in both English and French. The music during a break in the game is at an appropriate volume and is a good mix of music types. The hanging scoreboard is pretty simple and only shows shots-on-goal for stats. The picture is a comfortable size and clear.
Greg Johnston - Centre 200 is named in honour of the 200th anniversary of the founding of Sydney. The arena opened in 1987, as the home of the Cape Breton Oilers of the American Hockey League (AHL). In their nine seasons in Sydney, the Oilers won the Calder Cup once (1993) before moving to Hamilton, Ontario; this was around the same time all AHL teams moved out of the Maritimes.
That franchise is now the St. John’s IceCaps. Hockey returned to Sydney when the Granby Predateurs moved before the 1997-98 season. The Screaming Eagles have won their division once and have reached the conference finals twice, but have not advanced further. Marc-Andre Fleury is celebrated as one of the greatest former Eagles players. His #29 jersey hangs in the rafters.
Dave Cottenie - With a population of 31,000, the City of Val-d’Or is one of the smallest centres in the entire Canadian Hockey League. However, the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL is a throwback experience and almost brings hockey back to a pure state.
It took 16 long years for Junior Hockey at the highest level to be brought to the “Valley of Gold.” However, it was in 1993 when local builder Jean-Claude Babin secured a QMJHL franchise that would be owned by local shareholders, including G4 Drilling CEO Daniel Gamache. Earning President’s Cups as QMJHL Champions in 1998, 2001, and 2014, the Foreurs have had a fair amount of success.
There have also been several NHL players who have worn the green and gold, including Anthony Martha, Antoine Bibeau, Kris Letang, Brad Marchand, J.P. Dumont, Steve Begin, and Roberto Luongo.
Greg Johnston - In terms of the fan experience, hidden treasures are sometimes found in the smallest locations. Bathurst, New Brunswick is a little city of around 12,000 people located in the northeast quadrant of the province. This is where the Acadie-Bathurst Titan from the QMJHL calls home.
Creative economics, along with government commitment and community loyalty, have all contributed to the Titan competing in Bathurst since arriving in 1998. The Titan franchise originated in 1969 as the Rosemont National before moving to Laval, Quebec in 1971.
The team changed its name four times while in Laval (1971-1998), eventually settling on the Laval Titan Collège Français before moving to Bathurst. “Acadie” is in homage to the vast Acadian population in the area. Famous alumni include Roberto Luongo, Vincent Damphousse, Patrice Bergeron, and Hockey Hall-of-Famers Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux.
Dave Cottenie - The Rimouski Océanic were originally the Sherbrooke Castors in 1969. In 1982 they moved to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The move to Rimouski was facilitated by former owner and furniture magnate Maurice Tanguay. In 2016, Maurice would transfer his ownership stake to his grandson Alexandre at age 23. The younger Tanguay has a prominent role in the day-to-day operations of the team, which provides one of the best experiences in the entire QMJHL.
Home for the Océanic is the Colisée Financière Sun Life, which was built in 1966 and formerly known as the Colisée de Rimouski. The city-owned Colisée, like many QMJHL venues, is a classic barn-like venue that has received significant upgrades to bring it up to Major Junior hockey standards. The Colisée is a pleasant surprise and the Océanic experience is one that will rival any other in the QMJHL.
Dave Cottenie - At one point in time, each member league of the Canadian Hockey League had its own identity. The QMJHL was known for being faster-paced, with smaller players, more goal-scoring, and great goaltenders. No team can be identified with great goaltenders in junior more than the Chicoutimi Saguenéens (sag-nay-en).
Chicoutimi would produce four goaltenders in a short period who would go on to play in the National Hockey League. Jimmy Waite, Eric Fichaud, Marc Denis, and Felix Potvin would have various degrees of NHL success, but it is unprecedented for one junior team to produce so many NHL goaltenders.
Chicoutimi has been one of the most stable franchises in the Q, having been around since 1973, and the link to the community is undeniable. The translation of Saguenéens is literally “people from Saguenay.” Only the Gatineau (Hull) Olympiques and Shawinigan Cataractes have been in the same spot longer than the Saguenéens.
Sean MacDonald - The Gatineau Olympiques played at the venerable Robert Guertin Centre for 45 years, an aging rink whose time had passed. The city of Gatineau awarded the non-profit organization Vision Multisports Outaouais (VMSO) the contract for the construction and management of a 4,000-seat arena, including three community ice rinks. The venue is now known as Centre Slush Puppie after naming rights were acquired by the maker of the “original non-carbonated frozen beverage treat enjoyed by millions of people worldwide.”
Dave Cottenie - The horns, oh the horns! They may not be the horns of justice or the horns of victory. They may only be made of plastic and cardboard, but the horns are a staple of Aréna Glencore du Centre Dave-Keon. Home for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL, Aréna Iamgold was built in 1951 and formerly named after the favorite son of the area and former Toronto Maple Leaf's legend, Dave Keon. The building is as old school as they come and fits the Northern Québec area. However, if there is one thing that the hockey experience in this mining town of 41,000 should be known for, it is the horns the fans play throughout the game.
Dave Cottenie - The Voltigeurs are the second incarnation of major junior hockey in Drummondville. An expansion team in 1982, the Voltigeurs are named after a Quebec-based regiment that fought the Americans in the War of 1812.
They followed the original QMJHL team, the Drummondville Rangers, which played from 1969 to 1974. Currently owned by Jean-Guy Rene, Roger Dubois, and Michel Parizeau, the Voltigeurs have enjoyed moderate success, making it to the Memorial Cup 3 times, and winning the President’s Trophy as the top team in the QMJHL in 2009. Their most famous alumni include NHL greats Steve Duschene and Daniel Briere.
Dave Cottenie - The Victoriaville Tigres is one of those stalwart franchises of the QMJHL. They have been a part of the league since 1987 when they moved from the Montreal suburb of Longueuil to the city known for producing the famous Victoriaville hockey sticks.
The Tigres have gone on to see some success in the QMJHL, winning the President’s Cup in 2002 and making an appearance in the Memorial Cup. The Tigres have also produced several solid NHL hockey players including Mathieu Garon, Stephane Fiset, and Matthew Barnaby. Perhaps the most famous Tigre is also one of the biggest busts in NHL history, Alexandre Daigle, who was drafted first overall by the Ottawa Senators.
The Tigres play in the city-owned Colisee Desjardins, an older arena that has had a few upgrades over the years. The inner arena is named the Amphitheatre Gilbert-Perreault, after the legendary, Victoriaville native, captain of the Buffalo Sabres. The Quebec bank, Desjardins, purchased the naming rights to the entire building.
Greg Johnston - The Islanders franchise started as the Montreal Rocket, named after legendary Montreal Canadien, Maurice “Rocket” Richard. In 2003, the QMJHL expanded outside Quebec, adding teams in several Maritime cities.
With the Rockets experiencing financial woes, the team moved to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and became the PEI Rocket. Excitement for the new team was evident; the first two seasons saw an average attendance of well above 3,000 per game. However, the team struggled on and off the ice in the subsequent years.
Attendance steadily decreased, managed only one playoff series win through the 2013 season, and was experiencing financial troubles once again. Charlottetown was in danger of losing its team until a local ownership group stepped in and bought the franchise in 2013.
Dave Cottenie - In 2005, the QMJHL expanded to St. John’s, Newfoundland. After a short tenure on the easternmost tip of Canada, the Fog Devils moved to Verdun for a short life as the Montreal Junior. Now Junior has found a new home in another Montreal suburb.
For the 2011-12 season, QMJHL saw the birth of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The Armada are now the only major junior team based in a Montreal suburb. Upon moving to the suburbs north of Montreal, they were renamed the Armada and moved into the new Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau.
The arena is named after the Canadian hockey superstore named Pro Hockey Life in English and was built and jointly owned by the municipalities of Blainville and Boisbriand. The Armada may have finally found its niche for junior hockey in Montreal. What they present is simple, yet inviting.
N/A Baie-Comeau Drakkar - Centre Henry-Leonard
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