Canadiens owner addresses coaching controversy

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Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson commented on this weekend’s coaching change that saw Jacques Martin fired and assistant Randy Cunneyworth promoted to interim head coach.

The decision has come under fire because Cunneyworth can’t speak French. One Quebec-based nationalist group has called for a boycott of all Molson products while former NHLer Robert Sirois condemned the hire.

Today, Molson stood by GM Pierre Gauthier’s decision to promote Cunneyworth.

“Randy Cunneyworth is a qualified and experienced coach who has earned the respect of the players and everyone with the organization and he was ready to take over the responsibility of head coach,” Molson said. “As Pierre Gauthier indicated, the head coaching position will be reevaluated at the end of the season and, at that time the selection process will be carefully planned.”

With that said, Molson acknowledged the uniqueness of Montreal’s head coaching position, one Denis Poissant of the Journal de Montreal called “the most scrutinized personality in Quebec, even more than the prime minister, Celine Dion and even [Quebec City mayor] Regis Labeaume.”

“Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of a permanent head coach,” Molson said.

Montreal’s last non-French-speaking bench boss was Bob Berry, who coached the team from 1981-84.