Quebec earmarks up to $7M to bring Los Angeles Kings to provincial capital for visit

The team will stay in Old Quebec from Oct. 2 to Oct. 6, and this is all thanks to a provincial government subsidy worth at least $5 million. Quebec opposition parties say there are better things to spend public money on.

Opposition parties say province shouldn't be spending that kind of money on hockey

Four men smiling
From left: Martin Tremblay, Luc Robitaille, Eric Girard and Jonathan Julien, minister responsible for the Capitale-Nationale region. (Radio-Canada)

The Los Angeles Kings will showcase part of their training camp and play two pre-season games at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City next year.

The team will stay in Old Quebec from Oct. 2 to Oct. 6, and this, thanks to a provincial government subsidy worth between $5 and $7 million.

Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard announced the plan during a news conference Tuesday, arguing the government often backs comparable events such as the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal or Mosaïcultures, a horticulture exhibit that has cropped up in different cities.

Girard said the hockey event will cost up to $10 million total, but it will generate revenue. 

"I have the benefit of seeing all the subsidies that the government grants to sports and cultural events, and I can confirm that we are in the right order of magnitude," he said.

Gestev, the organizer of the event and the recipient of the subsidy, is a property of Quebecor.

Martin Tremblay, head of Gestev and chief operating officer of Quebecor's sports and entertainment division, said it was the Quebec government that launched the initiative. 

Tremblay said it is a privilege to host an organization like the Kings for the last week of training camp.

The province's opposition parties were quick to call a penalty.

"The CAQ is passing the puck to the NHL rather than to the people who are struggling. Yes, I love hockey. But not at this price," said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for Québec Solidaire, on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The CAQ says it lacks money for public sector workers, but it gives up to $7 million to NHL millionaires, he added.

"Quebecers really like hockey, but they would also like to have a government with a sense of priorities," he said.

Joël Arseneau, a member of the Parti Québécois, said Quebec is cutting important expenses like essential regional air service support while spending millions of dollars on bringing a hockey team to Quebec City for a few days.

Liberal member Gregory Kelley said food banks are asking for $8 million while the government is ready to give $7 million to the NHL.

"Thousands of Quebecers are hungry,'' Kelly wrote on X. "That's more important than two hockey games."

But Kings president Luc Robitaille said, "we will be very proud to play here next fall. Fans will be able to see our star players up close and watch our young prospects fight for a spot on our team in 2024-2025."

Phillip Danault from Victoriaville, Que., and Pierre-Luc Dubois from Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., both play for the Kings.

The Kings will face the Boston Bruins in the first pre-season game on Oct. 3, before taking on the 2023 Stanley Cup finalists, the Florida Panthers, two days later.

The NHL has not presented a pre-season game at Videotron Centre since 2018, when the Montreal Canadiens faced the Washington Capitals.

The arena opened its doors in 2015 with the goal of attracting an NHL franchise. For now, this building is the home of the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The 18,000-seat arena was built for $370 million, jointly paid for by Quebec City and the provincial government.

The Quebec Nordiques, the city's former NHL team, moved to Denver in 1995 and became the Colorado Avalanche, winning the Stanley Cup in its inaugural season.

with files from Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press