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Marcel Aubut talks Olympics and Nordiques

By Mike Cohen

Hundreds will gather this evening at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth to honour Marcel Aubut, the prominent lawyer, former owner of the Quebec Nordiques and the new president of the Canadian Olympic Association. A partner in the prestigious firm of Heenan Blaikie, he will receive the B’nai Brith Award of Merit at a gala dinner.

I had the privilege of sitting down with Aubut recently at his spacious downtown office. He was supposed to be the honouree a year ago, but had to step aside because of the enormous work on his plate regarding the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Aubut told me how he believes his contacts with the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman will help the push for professional hockey players continue to suit up in the 2013 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and for the return of the Nordiques in Quebec City.

“I was the one who originally pushed the idea of NHL players in the Olympics,” Aubut stated. “I want it to continue. It is just a matter of negotiations. There is no comparable showcase for our sport than the Olympics.”

As for the return of the Nordiques to the NHL, Aubut says he believes the stars are properly aligned for their return in the next three years. “There is a big difference now, compared to 1995 when the NHL left Quebec City,”  Aubut explains. “First of all, there was no interest in building a new arena. There was no salary cap in the NHL. The economy in Quebec City is strong. Both the mayor of the city and the premier are behind the move. And if you have a potential owner in Pierre Karl Peladeau who can justify the cost as he needs a team to build up his planned new sports network. I did not have any of these things in 1995.”

Quebec City also plans to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. “I think they have a good chance,” Aubut says. “The Olympic Committee is always looking for the best situation. Quebec has the perfect climate and guaranteed snow. A 12-year gap between Vancouver and Quebec would be perfect.”

Wealthiest Quebecers: Canadian Business  Magazine has unveiled the 100 wealthiest people/families in this country, 12 of whom are from Quebec. Here they are, with their overall ranking in brackets: the Power Corporation’s Paul Desmarais Sr. (6), $4.28 billion; the Saputo family (9), $3.52 billion; Charles Bronfman (18), $2.39 billion; the Bombardier family, $2.10 billion; investor Stephen Jarislowsky (28), $1.85 billion; the Cirque de Soleil’s Guy Laliberté (37), $1.51 billion; pharmacy magnate Jean Coutu (52), $1.15 billion; the Astral Media Greenberg family (60), $990 million; telecommunications guru Charles Sirois (65), $910 million; Quebecor Media’s Pierre Karl and Erik Péladeau, $670 million; former Telemedia owners the Gaspé Beaubien family (87), $650 million; and Videotron founder André Chagnon, $540 million.

COHEN CHATTER: Canadian Jewish Congress, the one-time “Parliament of Canadian Jewry” may be in its final days of existence. And I do not think that is a bad thing. See for more…The “Best Buy” of the weekend was “not” Habs defenceman P.K. Subban. First, the electronics chain advertised in its Saturday Gazette flyer that he would be at their Laval store at 2 p.m. They did not specify the day, which was Sunday. People began lining up at 9 a.m. the following morning. Observers there tell me P.K. arrived an hour and 10 minutes late and actually only started at 3:25 ...Montreal author Michel Brûlé is making waves that he will run for mayor in three years time. One of his campaign themes will be dropping the number of elected councillors in the city and boroughs. He calls the current number of 218 “ridiculous” and wants to bring that down to 30.

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