The secret's out: There's a Nordiques puck hidden inside a Quebec City sculpture

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The secret's out: There's a Nordiques puck hidden inside a Quebec City sculpture

The secret's out: There's a Nordiques puck hidden inside a Quebec City sculpture

A leaked secret about the towering bronze sculpture in front of Quebec City's Videotron Centre may keep alight local hockey fans' glimmer of hope for the return of a professional hockey team.

The artists behind La Rencontre hid a piece of local history inside the sculpture, unbeknownst to Quebec City residents and to the city, which paid $1.1 million for the piece of public art.

"We put a hockey puck of the Quebec Nordiques," said Pierre Sasseville of the visual arts duo Cooke-Sasseville.

The team was hired to create the bronze-cast statue, which now towers 11 metres over Place Jean-Béliveau, the park and public space in front of the city's $370-million arena.

The sculpture features two white-tailed deer standing hoof to hoof.

"It's a gesture that I'd call symbolic and superstitious," Sasseville said, comparing the move to architects' practice of hiding time capsules inside the walls of their buildings.

"We wanted to reproduce this by placing a puck that evokes part of the sporting history of the city."

Short-lived secret 

The piece received mixed reviews when it was inaugurated in September 2017 — many people failing to see a connection to the city's charged relationship with professional hockey.

Despite the criticism, the duo kept the hidden memento a secret. 

The covert operation didn't last very long, although Sasseville doesn't know how the information made its way to the ears of Radio-Canada reporters.

"A lot of people worked on the sculpture," he said, suggesting one person may have talked about it with family members, and the information could have spread from there.

Sasseville said the face-off between the two deer evokes the spirit of the sport, and the puck was meant as a good luck charm.

"We didn't want to talk about it before the return of the Nordiques," he said, not overly concerned the public's knowledge of the hidden token will break the spell.

The Holy Friday game of 1984

The puck the duo bought for the endeavour dates back to 1984, which happened to be a year of particular significance to the Nordiques.

It was one of the team's best seasons, when star players Michel Goulet, Peter Statsny and Alain Côté led the team to the playoffs.

But 1984 is also remembered as the year of the "Good Friday massacre," when the Nordiques faced off against the Montreal Canadiens on Good Friday, April 20 in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Two brawls broke out during Game 6 at the Montreal Forum. Canadiens defenceman Jean Hamel was seriously injured after being punched by Nordique Louis Sleigher.

While Hamel did return to play the following season, that hit essentially ended his career, forcing him to retire in October 1984 after receiving a second eye injury.

"By chance we happened to fall on a very emotionally charged year," said Sasseville.

Quebec's hockey history in 5 acts

While the puck will forever remain hidden under layers of bronze, hockey fans will be able to see new works of art paying tribute to the city's hockey past revealed over the next few years.

The city is investing $1 million to reflect the different eras of its hockey legacy. The works of art, to be displayed at Place Jean-Béliveau, will start with one of the Quebec Aces star himself.

An eight-metre-high statue of Béliveau is set to be unveiled in the fall of 2018, a tribute to the Aces' presence in the American Hockey League from the 1928 to 1971.

The city also asked residents through an online survey which Nordiques star they wanted to see immortalized. Peter Statsny came out on top, garnering 45 per cent of the 19,074 votes.

His statue will be erected in 2019.

The three other pieces of art will pay tribute to the Bulldogs (1888-1920), the Nordiques when they were playing under the World Hockey Association (1972-1979), and the Remparts, the local Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team.