Blog Entry

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:44 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 7:35 pm
By: Adam Gretz

There can't be a job in the NHL that carries more pressure and faces more scrutiny than being the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

Not only is it a rabid fan base that demands perfection, but you also have to deal with two separate groups of equally harsh media, one of which speaks English, and another that speaks French.

Shortly after he was named as the interim replacement for Jacques Martin following his firing on Saturday, Randy Cunneyworth is starting to get a taste of what it's like inside the belly of the beast. And it's all because he doesn't speak French.

Over the past 20-plus years the Canadiens have made it a point to hire coaches that speak both languages, and when looking at lists of prospective new hires it's almost always limited to bilingual candidates. That of course changed with the placement of Cunneyworth behind the bench over the weekend, and predictably, some people in Quebec aren't happy about it. Mainly those that speak French.

Impératif Français, a Quebec-based nationalist group, has criticized the hire and called it a "bodycheck to Quebec." Along with being overly critical of the hire and calling the ability to speak French a "prerequisite" for the job, the nationalist group has also called for a boycott of all Molson Products, the corporation that owns the team.

Pro-French activist Gilles Rhéaume, representing Ligue Québécoise contre la Francophobie Canadienne, released a similar statement as translated by CJAD in Montreal:
"There are many in Quebec and in all of French America who are asking, the day after a unilingual anglophone was given the head coaching job, if the Canadiens' management hasn't been stricken with francophobia, characterized by a total insensitivity to the French fact in Quebec," Rhéaume wrote. "Not being able to speak French is a severe handicap for someone who occupies such a position. Knowledge of the language of Quebec is an integral part of the skills required to lead the Montreal Canadiens."
What? And you thought the ability to lead the team to wins was the the only integral part of the job?

The problem is people like this -- along with having an obvious fear or bias against anything that's from outside of Quebec -- is that they are still stuck in the stone ages when NHL teams were mostly provincial due to territorial rights, and a team like the Canadiens was made up of almost nothing but French-speaking players from Quebec.

Knowing French may be helpful in his dealings with the media, but to be a head coach in the league today is to deal with a wide range of people from every possible background and culture. The Canadiens roster, as currently constructed, has just three players from Quebec. It has five players from the United States and 10 from various countries in Europe, including Finland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus and Russia.

It's a global game, and the Canadiens are a global team.

As long as Cunneyworth can communicate his message to his players and put them in a position to succeed, the language he speaks (or doesn't speak) shouldn't matter.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Canadiens Fire Jacques Martin
More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.


Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 12:14 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

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Since: Dec 19, 2011
Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:15 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

I wonder who displays more arrogance and ignorance.  The fight to keep a language alive in an english sea is quite a challenge.  I'm sure you know the language bears the culture and the identity and I'm glad some people do hold the fort.  But coming back to hockey I agree that restricting the staff to francophones is too narrow to hope winning in this league.  And believe me,most Canadiens fans want a winning team, period.  Don't get disturbed by the medias and a couple of civil groups.

Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: December 19, 2011 5:33 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

For the past 20 years, the Canadiens fans have demanded a bilingual coach instead of the best coach available. Coincidentally it has been 20 years since a Stanley cup win. Do they force their 5 U.S. players to learn French?

Since: Dec 6, 2009
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:58 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

These minority Quebeckers are a bunch of moaning complainers. If the Habs resorted ONLY to available francophone candidates, they would continue to wallow in mediocrity.  In the 80's and 90's they were obsessed with francophone coaches and captains - and met with limited success. It is about winning, and lets hope that Cunneyworth is like Bylsma and lights up the Habs. English is most likely the common language on any NHL team.  If he speaks good english and come up with some good game plans then great, but if the Habs feel the pressure and hire a genial francophone to please the xenophobic minorites then the Habs will be just average at best.

Since: Jun 12, 2009
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:55 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

The french speaking sect in Quebec is racist againt all non-french speaking people.  The don't even like french canadians, but tolerate them since they speak the language.

Since: Oct 9, 2011
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:50 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

The only knowledge that should be needed is how to lead a team and how to win! I live here and could care less if the coach only speaks Russian if he can get them playing better.
This B.S is driven by a minority albeit a minority who knows how to stir the pot. These aren't the opinions of a habs fan but simply desperate people trying to beat a long dead political horse. They will do anything to try to revive this language debate even though the average person wants nothing to do with it.
As a resident of Quebec and a bi-lingual one at that, all I want is a winning product on the ice....not this passive crap we've seen this year.
 Do I think Cunneyworth is the guy to do it? No. I think he's simply holding the fort untill the end of the season when a complete housecleaning is made. Let the new GM bring in his own guy. Then we'll see what it's all about.

Since: Sep 16, 2007
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:45 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

bgleague, all Montreal coaches have been able to speak French up 'til now. Bowman is quiet fluent in French, as was Pat Burns. By the way, even France wants nothing to do with Quebec; they make fun of their "French".

Since: Apr 21, 2008
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:04 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

Does Scotty Bowman speak French?  If not, someone should pass the word along to these Quebecois that he won them like 25 Stanley Cups.

Since: Dec 19, 2011
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:01 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

The fact that this is even news (that he doesn't speak French) goes to show how backwards Quebec can be. Their team is 12th in the east and haven't been playing very well. So their coach gets canned and a new one brought in. And they're complaining about what languages he does or doesn't speak!?

This shouldn't even be a headline (however it being Quebec, I understand that it would be). In the game of hockey there's only a few things to worry about. The GM has to create a good team (signing, drafting & trading players), and the coach has to develope the players and WIN. That's it... just WIN. I get that most people in Quebec will get this... it's just the minority that are speaking up... however unless other Quebecers speak out, this crap will be taken as if it's coming from the majority. And I assure you, the majority only wants to win. A US/Russian could be the coach (and be accepted) if they coached them to a cup win.

Since: Sep 16, 2007
Posted on: December 19, 2011 2:34 pm

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

My family left Quebec for Ontario in 1970 because of the kind of sentiment expressed by this guy Rheaume (great move by the way, I would never consider going back there). What any sane person in Quebec should be concerned with right now is the Habs somehow squeaking into the playoffs. Worry about language and other trivialities next season. And next season, you can replace Goat-turd at the same time! It's his fault the Habs are a bunch of fruit flies out there on the ice, little gnats that swarm about you quickly but have no other effect once you swat them away. I bet Gomez never stands too close to the track when waiting for the Metro to arrive at the station, just about anyone might be tempted to give him an accidental nudge.

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