Quebec-based nationalist group blasts Montreal’s decision to hire Cunneyworth

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Impératif Français, a Quebec-based nationalistic group, is denouncing the Montreal Canadiens’ decision to hire Randy Cunneyworth as interim head coach.

They’ve called the hiring of Cunneyworth — who, unlike many his Habs coaching predecessors, cannot speak French — a “bodycheck to Quebec,” and a “gross misconduct.”

“Being unable to speak French is a severe handicap for someone in that position,” the group wrote in a statement. “Knowing the French language is a pre-requisite for leading the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.”

The group has also called for a boycott of all Molson products. (The Molson family owns the Canadiens.)

Cunneyworth took over from Jacques Martin just prior to Montreal’s game against New Jersey, which the Habs would go on to lose 5-3. In doing so, he became Montreal’s first non-French speaking head coach since Bob Berry, who was behind the Canadiens bench from 1981-84.

Even with that history in place, many Quebeckers are still questioning the move.

“The coach of the Canadiens is the most scrutinized personality in Quebec, even more than the prime minister, Celine Dion and even [Quebec City mayor] Regis Labeaume,” wrote Denis Poissant of the Journal de Montreal. “And Cunneyworth can’t answer questions in French. It doesn’t make any sense.”

The decision to name Cunneyworth head coach has also come under fire from former NHLer Robert Sirois, best known as the author of Discrimination in the NHL: Quebec Hockey Players Sidelined.

“The Canadiens should be a source of national pride for all Quebeckers,” Sirois said. “Not an agent of anglicisation.”