Demonstrators protest unilingual coach outside Bell Centre

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There’s a game going on in Montreal at the Bell Centre tonight. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadians are battling it out on Hockey Night in Canada for some much needed points in the Eastern Conference playoff race. But outside the building, there were a few hundred protesters who cared more about the coach behind the bench than the team on the ice. More specifically, they cared more about the language the coach speaks when addressing players and the media.

Mouvement Quebec francais president Mario Beaulieu released a statement to accompany Saturday evening’s demonstration. Via the Montreal Gazette: “The Montreal Canadiens management does not respect the status of French as Quebec’s official language,” Beaulieu said. “The music played in the Bell Centre is English. All announcements made in the arena are bilingual. There are only two or three francophone players left on the team. And now they have named a head coach who doesn’t speak a word of French. Not even ‘Bonjour’.”

Anyone who thought this language debate had cooled was sadly mistaken. As if Randy Cunneyworth’s job wasn’t difficult enough as he tried to turn things around for the mediocre Habs, he has hundreds of people outside the arena protesting because he doesn’t speak the right language. To some of the folks on the street, winning is secondary to the organization representing Quebecois culture.

General manager Pierre Gauthier has already publically apologized. Owner Geoff Molson (who is now tweeting in both languages) has already said that the head coaching position will be re-evaluated at the end of the season. Still, as long as Cunneyworth is behind the bench, there will be those who will publically voice their displeasure.