Playing the identity card

Some 100 years ago, French-speaking inhabitants of this country had very few models to look up to. Poor and undereducated, they followed the path drawn by the Church... raising as many children as possible with very little mean. Life was tough.

In 1909, John Ambrose O'Brien entertainded the idea of creating a hockey team to capture francophone interest as a rival for the Montréal Wanderers. This new team was to essentially recruit French-speaking hockey players only. The name chosen to underline this particular trait was Le Club de Hockey Canadien.

Perhaps, you're unsure why the name "Canadien" would specifically appeal to French-speakers. If this is the case, you're unfamiliar with the origins of the word. You see... in those days, English-speakers in this country still had strong ties with England. They basically were British North Americans. In contrast, French settlers and their descendants had long broken their ties with France, developing their own very specific identity, as les Canadiens.

John Ambrose O'Brien saw a commercially feasible venture in exploiting this feeling of distinctiveness. Time proved him right. The hockey team became one of the most successful professional sports team in the world, giving French Canadians from all over the country the models they never had. And what models!... six championship cups in the 50s, four in the 60s, six in the 70s... 24 in total.

Today, pretty much everyone in the country see themselves as Canadians and the majority probably wonders why Montréal's hockey team bears such a name. What used to be known as the Canadien identity has now morphed into something different, the Québécois identity. Le Club de Hockey Canadien hasn't followed this trend (nor should it), but a newer team with less heritage could very well do so.

Founded in 1993, L'impact is Montréal's soccer team. This year is its first season in the MLS. Upon its entry in the big league, the owner saw it fit to redo its entire image. Like Les Canadiens de Montréal did some 100 years ago with French Canadians, L'Impact chose the path of identity to appeal to the Québécois' strong feeling of distinctiveness. Click below to see for yourself.

Of course, today's Québécois don't need heroes as French Canadians of the past did. But if this video doesn't touch you, in all good faith, what will? Look at the picture below and tell me... what are these gentlemen saying to the Québécois of all origins?... be part of the team...