Psychology and a bit of paternalism help define the relationship between Montreal and Quebec City. Montreal has about 1.7 million residents, Quebec slightly more than 500,000. Quebec is the provincial capital, but Montreal is better known as an economic and cultural hub. Montreal traditionally has been determined to keep the province in Canada, whereas calls for provincial independence have emanated from Quebec City. Into this tug-of-war was dropped in 1979 a short-lived but intense rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and the Quebec Nordiques.
The so-called Battle of Quebec allowed the disparate cities to compete head to head, and a built-in rivalry existed from the start: The teams were owned by competing breweries. Molson owned the Canadiens, and Carling O'Keefe owned the Nordiques. The Nords joined the NHL when the World Hockey Association folded, and when the NHL realigned in 1981, it placed both teams in the Adams Division.
That year was the first of five times the franchises met in the playoffs. The Nordiques won the first series in overtime in the deciding game. However, Game 4 featured 251 penalty minutes ... a precursor to the rivalry's highlight, the 1984 playoffs. The Canadiens reversed the outcome that year, winning 4-2. But the final game was enlivened by the Good Friday Massacre, a series of brawls that began with Quebec's Dale Hunter and Montreal's Guy Carbonneau. The teams earned 222 penalty minutes - in the second period alone. Ten players were ejected.
The teams met three more times in the postseason, the Canadiens going 2-1. But in 1995, the rivalry breathed its last when the Nordiques moved to Colorado and became the Avalanche. Talk now exists that the Phoenix Coyotes could relocate to Quebec. Any Canadian brewery looking to buy a team?