The year is ending with a bit of linguistic controversy in Montréal. The nomination of a unilingual coach at the helm of the Canadiens two weeks ago didn't go unnoticed and this grunge is being carried over in the new year. A demonstration [Google translation] is under preparation for January 7th at the Bell Centre.
A recent poll [Google translation] suggests that as much as 80% of the population disagrees with the nomination of a unilingual coach. "What's the fuss?" you wonder... there are only a few French-speaking players in the team and talks in the dressing room are by far predominantly in English. Is this yet another example of Québec's intolerance towards English? Well... the players aren't the only ones the coach has to talk to and... you see... the Québécois like to understand what they're being told.
The relationship between the Habs and their fans is deep and goes a long way back. Founded in 1909, "Le Club de Hockey Canadien" was to be the team of the Francophone community in Montréal, composed of Francophone players. Why use the word "Canadien" then? Simply because that's how the French-speaking population called itself in those days. They were neither French nor British North Americans, like their English-speaking counterparts who had yet to acknowledge their Canadianity. For the undereducated that he was, up until the 60s, the average French Canadian didn't have much of a model to relate to other than hockey players. And what models!... six championship cups in the 50s, four in the 60s, six in the 70s... 24 in total.
Today, the team counts very few French speaking players and its fan base is much more diversified then it originally was. But the team's past success left deep marks in the population's psyche. The Montréal Canadiens continue to take an immense share of media coverage in the province. In 2010, Influence Communication reported that sports were at the top of all priorities in Québec media and that 85% of sports news is about les Canadiens. Other NHL teams and other sports, be they professional or amateur, accounted for less than 10%. Every day, 35% of what was written on the NHL in media around the world came from Québec. The rest of the country, then home of five NHL teams, produced 50% of NHL coverage. The USA, with 24 teams, produced 15%. For comparison, sports news in Québec accounted for 16 times the weight of national news.
Randy Cunneyworth is in the spotlight. The team isn't doing well. The fans want to know why and they want to hear it from the horse's mouth... in the language of the majority.
Writer's note (from the Urban Dictionary): The word "Sacre Bleu" is a stereotypical French curse that is actually never used by real French people. Same as the mustache and the beret - something only non-French people think is typical of the French.