Thursday, March 12, 2009

Language is the Big Issue in Habs Coaching Choice

The news of Carbo's firing continues to reverberate around the city. A Google news search, undertaken the day after, indicates an amazing 645 articles about the firing!

As always, language play a big part in every decision in Quebec and the Canadiens are not immune. The big question asked of CKAC radio listeners on Tuesday was whether fans wanted;
A. The best coach available.
B. The best coach available who also speaks French.
While some went for option A, the prevailing opinion was that the coach of the Canadiens has to speak French.

The radio host mentioned that if Option B is the case, there are precious few choices.

Bob Gainey is in a difficult position. An unilingual English coach is out of the question, but the Canadiens have burned through the major French talent in the coaching pool. Ever since Jacques Demers coached the team to the 1993 Stanley Cup, every subsequent coach has been a Francophone (Mario Trembly, Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien, Claude Julien and Guy Carrbonneau) and none have lasted more than three years.

Though few are willing to admit it, the language issue has been hurting the Canadiens for the last fifteen years. A large proportion of players from the rest Canada and the United States just won't come here. While language is not the only issue, it certainly is the biggest. Look at Canadiens success rate in the free agent and trade market. It's so bad that even some Francophone stars don't want any part of the Canadiens (Vincent Lecavalier, Daniel Briere.)
It seems that the team is destined to be populated mostly by East Europeans.
This humiliating problem is largely swept under the carpet by French media although it's plainly admitted by commentators on English sports networks and writers.

Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated discusses the problem in a Tuesday article.

It seems the choice of a Francophone coach is made strictly to satisfy the media and fans. Behind the scene, the team operates in English regardless of the coach's mother tongue.

Back to the radio talk show.
The only name consistently mentioned by fans as a replacement was Bob Hartley, the Franco-Ontarian from Hawkesbury.

The issue of language threatens to explode if one is to believe what is going on over the radio talk shows, in print and on TV. It makes good press and good ratings.

If any of the radical language groups decide to make it a cause celebre (like the Plains of Abraham debate) it threatens to get ugly.

No comments:

Post a Comment