par KEVIN DOUGHERTY
Guy Bertrand doesn't like to take no for an answer.
The flamboyant Quebec City lawyer proposed to Hockey Canada that the province have its own "Team Quebec" when the 2008 world hockey championship is held in Quebec City, at about the same time as the National Hockey League playoffs.
"The presence of Team Quebec would correspond to the will of the Quebec nation," he explained in a letter to Bob Nicholson, president of Hockey Canada.
Hockey Canada said no, explaining that only sovereign countries can compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation championship, which is usually held in Europe.
In 2008, the 400th anniversary of Quebec City, the IIHF will hold its championship for the first time in North America.
Undaunted by Hockey Canada's refusal, Bertrand has a Plan B, which calls for creation of two teams, one pan-Canadian, the other an all-Quebec team.
The two teams, made up of NHL players from clubs that miss the playoffs, would compete and the winner - Team Canada or Team Quebec - would represent Canada at the 2008 competition.
Bertrand, who has worn the separatist jersey, switched to federalism at the time of the 1995 referendum but now defines himself again as a sovereignist.
He said if Hockey Canada rejects his new proposal, the choice for Quebecers will be clear: "Lie down and take it or liberate ourselves."
He noted a Leger Marketing poll indicates 72 per cent of Quebecers favour the idea.
Bertrand is seeking support from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Quebec Premier Jean Charest and others. "No one has said no," he told reporters.
He wants Charest to press Harper and Hockey Canada to let Quebec ice its own team, just as Harper agreed to give the province a box seat in Canada's UNESCO delegation.
Yesterday, Charest did not respond to reporters, instead sending Jean-Marc Fournier, his sports minister, who did not say no to the idea but left reporters to draw their own conclusions.
Fournier recalled the classic 1972 Russia-Canada hockey series, which Canada won on a goal by Toronto Maple Leafs player Paul Henderson.
"We still have a picture, which I looked at not long ago, of Henderson in the arms of (Montreal Canadiens captain Yvan) Cournoyer," he said.
Fournier also reminded reporters of a 1987 championship, when Wayne Gretzky passed to Mario Lemieux for a goal.
"We win when we are together," he said. "Why not continue?"
Bertrand said 2008 is Quebec City's 400th anniversary, and Hockey Canada should go along with his idea as a gift to the city, promising that if the Canadian team eliminates Quebec, he would cheer for it in the finals.
He also predicted if there is no Team Quebec, the event will be a financial "fiasco," as Quebec City fans opt to stay home.
Bertrand, who has proposed a Quebec team in the past, was the lawyer for Les Gens de l'air, a group that campaigned for and won bilingual air traffic control in the province at the time of the 1976 provincial election.
Just as Team Quebec is getting a rough ride now, he was ridiculed in 1976 over his dogfights for French in the air, he recalled.
"It touches the fibre of Quebecers," he said of that battle. "And hockey is the same thing."
Bertrand pitches Team Quebec: At 2008 Hockey Championship
If idea is refused, sovereignty may be answer