The funny part of being the Montreal Canadiens is that sometimes, just being a successful hockey team isn’t enough when you’re in Quebec. While the team on the ice often has its own problems to contend with, the politicians in the Province of Quebec can get a bit anxious about things. No, they’re not passing legislation to help rook the rules in favor of the team or passing a tax on visiting hockey teams. Instead, they’re getting upset at the Habs for not having as many French-Canadian players as they used to.
With the rumors of Rochester, New York native Brian Gionta being slated to become the next captain of the team, one Quebecois party leader, Pauline Marois, and a PQ language critic, Pierre Curzi, have taken the moment to make a political stink over the apparent lack of Quebec-born players on the province’s only NHL team.
The party’s culture critic, well-known former actor Pierre Curzi, got the ball rolling in a recent television interview, where he said it’s no accident there is a dwindling number of French-speaking Quebeckers in bleu-blanc-rouge.
“The people who don’t wish Quebec to become a country, who don’t wish French to flourish, they know very well that you must take over a certain number of symbols of identity,” he told the television magazine Les Francs-tireurs, adding “the federal power” has seized control of the Canadiens.
Then Ms. Marois weighed in on Wednesday, and while she stopped short of endorsing Mr. Curzi’s line of thinking, said: “I think Quebeckers would like to have more francophones in this team.”
The comments were immediately derided by the ruling Liberals – Municipal Affairs Minister Laurent Lessard burst out laughing when reporters informed him of her remarks.
See Americans, our political system isn’t the only one with out-of-whack ideals and insane grandstanding. We’re not alone in this world.
Unfortunately for Habs fans this kind of talk bubbles up from time to time, especially when it comes down to the selection of front office personnel. Taking a job in Montreal does have distinct differences in that you have to deal with bilingual media on a daily basis. Being the De facto torch bearers for any players born in Quebec is a special burden unto itself and one that’s seen the talent pool drop off in recent years.
That said, wanting the team to be more ethnocentric based simply around Quebeckers is insanity. Hockey is a globalized game with talent oozing out from all over the world. The days when the Habs could throw out dominant line after line of talent from Quebec are gone and players from PQ can go wherever they want to or be drafted by any team in the league. The obsession with players from Quebec, or players relatively close by, has often made times tough for players as they’d burn under the spotlight of Quebecois Habs broadcasters RDS. Just ask Guillaume Latendresse about that.
In the end, this story is simplified by boiling it down to the simplest of public relations kind of analysis. The hockey season is about to begin and politicians want to cash in on the attention and find a way to appeal to the more rabid parts of the fanbase. Problem with that is when you lash out without dealing in logic you’re going to get picked on. With that kind of action, I’d say Pauline Marois and Pierre Curzi are just about ready for American politics.