« Nous sommes les champions, mes amis! » Football and baseball are more popular in French-speaking Quebec than some might imagine
Ever since the Nordiques packed up and left town in 1995, sports fans in Quebec City have waited (and waited) for the (possible) return of an NHL franchise. Leaving aside that touchy subject, there are several hometown teams to cheer for.
Quebec City sports fans are known to rally around a rink, but it’s not all hockey hockey hockey. (But yes, some of it is hockey.) Tickets for all Quebec City teams are affordable and easily accessible to visitors, so grab a foam finger and get in the stands.
BASEBALL: Capitales de Quebec
The Capitales de Quebec play as part of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball (“CanAm League”), which currently includes two other Canadian teams (the Ottawa Champions and the Aigles de Trois-Rivières) as well as three American teams (New York state’s Rockland Boulders, and two clubs from New Jersey, the Jackals and the Sussex County Miners). The CanAm clubs aren’t affiliated with major league ball or their farm systems, but the players usually have been released from teams that are part of those organizations, or they are extending their university careers.
SÃ©bastien Dion/Courtesy Capitales de QuÃ©bec
Home field for the Capitales is an authentic 1930s ballpark, an intimate venue (seats 4,800) with just the right amount of grunge. They’ve played at the Stade Municipal since the team was established in 1999. The stadium is steps away from the city’s downtown core and offers all the traditional ballpark snacks, themed games and activities for fans. That includes a seventh inning sing-along to Take Me Out to the Ball Game – yes, in English.
The Quebec City club is a leader in breaking linguistic and cultural barriers. The 2015 season included a first-ever series against an all-star team from Japan’s Shikoku Island League, as well as building on a growing partnership with baseball in Cuba. A year earlier, the Capitales signed a first professional Cuban player to its roster (Yunieski Gourriel), leading to more players from Cuba joining the team and league. Another first: as part of the 2016 season, the Cuban national baseball team is playing a 19-game series against the CanAm clubs, starting in Quebec City.
The Caps’ roster currently boasts three players from Cuba (Yordan Manduley, Yurisbel Gracial and Roel Santos), two veterans from Quebec (Jonathan Malo, Karl Gélinas) and a new addition to the lineup whose family name is getting a lot of attention: outfielder Trevor Gretzky, son of hockey’s ”The Great One” Wayne Gretzky, who was on hand for the team’s 2016 home opener.
Season: May to September
Tickets: $11 to $19 (adults), $8 to $15 (kids)
Team colours: Blue, white and gold
FOOTBALL: Laval Rouge et Or
Wandering through certain Quebec City neighbourhoods can feel like a European getaway, but a football game at Laval University has all the sights – and smells – of American college football. From the tailgate parties that take over the parking lot, to the face-painted fans that fill the stands, the Rouge et Or is a force in Canadian football.
The team plays on campus at the Stade Telus to crowds much, much larger than at any other university in Canada. An average of more than 14,500 spectators come to see their team win, and win they have. The Rouge et Or has taken home eight Vanier Cups, which represents more championship titles than any other team part of Canadian Interuniversity Sport football. Another record is for the Dunsmore Cup. Between 2003 and 2013, Laval won 11 consecutive provincial titles for university football in Quebec, all under the watchful eye of Glen Constantin, who joined the team’s staff in 1996, taking on head coaching duties in 2001.
Another history-making moment came during the 2016 Canadian Football League (CFL) draft. Three Rouge et Or players (Philippe Gagnon, Charles Vaillancourt, Jason Lauzon-Séguin) were picked up in the first round, a team record. (The only other time three players from the same university made the first cut to the CFL was with the University of Calgary Dinos in 2001.) Five more Rouge et Or players went on to be drafted in subsequent rounds.
Laval is largely credited for paving the way for a resurgence of university football at francophone schools.
Founded in 1996, it was the first-ever French-language university football program in Canada, followed by the the University of Sherbrooke’s Vert & Or in 2002, and the University of Montreal’s Carabins in 2003. The McGill Redmen, Bishop’s Gaiters and Concordia Stingers round off the university teams in Quebec.
Season: August to October (regular season)
Tickets: $17 to $32 (adults), free to $12 (kids)
Team colours: Red and gold (“rouge” and “or”)
HOCKEY: Québec Remparts
Quebec City has hockey – and lots of it. For the closest level of play to the pros, head to a Québec Remparts game. The team is part of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL or “Q league”), which includes clubs from throughout the province, as well as from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Only the Remparts, however, get to call a $370 million arena home ice.
The Videotron Centre opened in the summer of 2015. Without an NHL franchise available to take the ice, the Remparts moved into the brand new facility. The seating capacity is for more than 18,000 fans, compared to the other arenas in the league which hover, on average, around the 3,000 mark. Regardless of the rink, the games are quick and energy-packed, and include all sorts of giveaways and activities for ticket holders.
Head to a game and chances are you’ll be in the company of a future professional player or two, as this is a top training ground for the NHL and other pro clubs. (QMJHL players range in age from 16 to 20 years old.) Newly retired NHLer Simon Gagné, up-and-comer Ryan Bourque, as well as Marc-Édouard Vlasic and Antoine Vermette are among those who started their on-ice careers as part of the Remparts roster.
Local goaltending legend, and current Colorado Avalanche coach, Patrick Roy is in part responsible for the Remparts’ success. He helped revive the squad in 1997, rebuilding the team brand and reputation. General manager and head coach duties now belong to Philippe Boucher.
Season: September to March (regular season)
Tickets: $16 to $19 (adults), $7 to $10 (kids)
Team colours: Red, white and black