Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Canadiens" In French Means "Madness"

(Photo via thehockeynews.com)
I was going to post about the emergence of the Florida Panthers as a force in the Eastern Conference (and the league in general). Then I was thinking about how Jose Theodore has been blazing hot this season. Then I remembered how Theo killed it in 2001 for the Habs as he scooped up the Hart and Vezina trophy while rocking a 2.11 GAA and .919 save percentage. THEN the Habs coaching debacle reared its fleur-de-lis head. And I didn't want to write about it. But I will. I don't have to. But I want to. This is getting to a level of ridiculousness that can only shake down in La Belle Province.

A few mandatory disclaimers to settle before I proceed: 1) I'm Francophone (Franco-Ontarian to be precise with strong family ties to Quebec) and I'm proud of it. I'm not alluding to the fact that I can say whatever the hell I want due to my Franco-membership card...but I will. 2) if you get offended by this post, then you can't handle the truthiness. I'm not here to distinctly disrespect anyone, I'm letting these thoughts flow out like sap from a maple tree in the spring.

Being an Ottawa Senators fan, I knew from the jump that Jacques Martin would not bring success to the Canadiens. It was a case of the old "been there, done that and it sucked". Martin is all about the trap, which in this case, chocked the life out of what fans like to see in hockey: offense. He has the personality of a pound of smoke meat and is a terrible communicator. Case in point: when Kirk Muller left the Habs this year to coach in the AHL (and a quick promotion to the NHL behind the Carolina bench) les Habitants were not the same team. He knew how to relate to the players and they responded in turn.

I remember this one playoff season (sorry can't recall which series it was...probably against the Leafs) when the Sens lost and looked absolutely defeated throughout the set. I'm paraphrasing here but Martin expressed something along the line of "What can I do? They have to go out there and compete. I don't know what I can say anymore to get them going." They looked defeated because he was defeated. This is why he will never be successful in the NHL. At the same time, I wish him all the best and hope he lands a GM gig someday since this coaching racket is not working for him.

Back to the matter at hand. Out is the Martin, in with the Cunneyworth. A bit of twisted history, Martin coached Captain Randy Cunneyworth back in the 90s with the Senators. And now, this is were the shit hits l'autoroute 40. This is the first time since Al MacNeil in 71, who was let go based on allegations that he gave "English" members of the team more ice time, that the Habs bench boss is Anglophone. Based on what I know about Cunneyworth he seems like a solid dude that can help this club. He's from the Toronto area and cannot speak a lick of French. What I cannot understand is why Habs GM Pierre Gauthier gave the interim keys to the kingdom to Cunneyworth. Gauthier knows and understands how Quebequers cherish this team. He also knows that he threw his new coach to the sovereignist wolves without any means to defend himself. So shame on him, with a huge good on him, for making this decision.

Why good on him? That was a ballsy move which no one should have a problem with....enter: the two solitudes redux. Thanks to this decision, every Tom, Dick And Harry Separatist got their message heard across the nation. I read quite a few article in the last few days, and here are a few of my favorite quotes:

**I don't feel it necessary to source these quotes since I don't want to give these folks any more attention. Warning: some of these quotes have been horribly translated by yours truly.**

"Never would the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames or Vancouver Canucks hire a coach that is strictly Francophone "

There's a reason why this wouldn't work. English is the language that all of these hockey players understand,  excluding their native tongues. It's not feasible since its not practical. It's not a language issue, and in addition, wouldn't even work in Montreal.

"As they (Montreal Canadiens) distance themselves from their Francophone customers, at some point in time, there will be less interest in hockey"

The entire team could be Swedish and the fans would still support them. If interest was lost, there would be some pretty happy riot police in Montreal. Absurd comment.

"In Quebec, the Canadiens aren't just a hockey team. They are also an institution. And like all institutions, they have a responsibility to the community."

The Canadiens are a Quebec icon. Not an institution. It's not their responsibility to promote the French language, its their job to win hockey games (which has been a problem this year. Read: powerplay) and provide entertainment.

Last and definitely not least is this quote from the Quebec Minister of Culture Christine St-Pierre:

The Canadiens "are not merely a hockey team, but a cultural institution in Quebec, with obvious implications to respect the language of the majority, not to mention the organization's own rich, well-documented social history."

She adamantly expressed her disappointment with the interim coaching decision for the Habs. St-Pierre explained that she doesn't want the new coach to get fired, but want the Habs to make the right decision at the end of the year i.e. hire a Francophone coach. If the Quebec government (and not the Canadian government as reported by some media outlets) has a vested interest in the team's direction, they should've made a run at buying it when Gillett put it on the market. The Molson Family are again behind the wheel and will make decisions based on what's best for the club. The QC government should worry about the quality of their roads and highways, as well as the health and stability of their economy i.e. unemployment. This is St-Pierre and the Liberals transparently cheap attempt to rouse up support by creating controversy. They believe that they are speaking for the people, when they are in it for themselves and the minority.

All this to say that Randy Cunneyworth is a very qualified coach who can help this team get back on track. Unfortunately, this has become a rallying cry for the fading sovereignist movement that's on life support after they got blown out in the federal elections. Fun fact: since Scotty Bowman, the average lifespan of a Francophone Montreal Canadiens coach is appropriately 3 years. And those dismissed bench bosses have found success in other markets (Vigneault, Julien, Therrien). The French media has a habit of chewing up and spitting out these coaches, which is also a reflection how the fan base feels. It doesn't matter if this coach is Francphone or Anglophone. What should be a priority for everyone is to get this team back in the win column. This dark cloud language debate hanging over the organisation is not conducive to their success or normalcy. I can guarantee you that any coach who makes this team a contender again, whether he speaks French, Russian or Créole, will be hailed as a provincial hero. Only then will this issue be put to rest and everyone will be happy...or until the Habs have a 3 game losing streak.



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