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On Language and Coaching

As I was driving to Fargo today, I had the opportunity to listen XM Radio’s NHL station, which was featuring the War Room program. The hosts were discussing potential coaching changes for next year, and when the topic came around to the Montreal Canadiens, the guys mentioned the apparent necessity for any new Habs coach to be a French speaker. The commentators on the show weren’t necessarily in favour of the idea, but did acknowledge that it was basically a foregone conclusion that any new hire had to be bilingual.

To me, this seems utterly ridiculous in this day and age. The Canadiens of old used to have the market cornered on Francophone players, but they have now abandoned this practice and simply draft or sign the best players available. Sure, it does seem like many top French speaking players are interested in playing in Quebec and you often hear the rumours that so and so wants to go there, but in reality, few of them ever do. The Captain of the team is a Finn, and there best players are from all over the world. The Habs have even been known to draft Americans. Sacre bleu, quelle horreur!. If the language/heritage issue is no longer pertinent when it come skaters, who cares if the coach can converse in the mother tongue?

This begs the question, who in particular is demanding that the coach being a French speaker? The players? Likely not, since only a half dozen or so would likely understand it. The media? Perhaps, but I dare say most fo them speak English just fine. The ownership? Last I checked the Montreal owner was a Wisconsin born American, and I don’t believe Madison is known as Little Little Paris. By process of elimination, that leaves the fans. Now, I understand that language and culture is a touchy issue in the PQ, but as a hockey fan, wouldn’t you trade the language factor for wins? The Montreal faithful are notoriously passionate and knowledgeable, so do they not know that making coaches check two language boxes on the Coach Application automatically narrows the field by oh, say 75 or 80% right off the bat?

There are definitely successful and able Francophone coaches out there, but it seems insisting on this capability means you conduct the search with un arm tied behind your back. Do you try and fit a square peg into a round hole just to appease a province’s xenophobia? If the Canadiens do hire another Franco-coach, I won’t be surprised, but lets just hope that Anglais-only candidates are also considered. The Habs need a shot in the arm, and with the bucket full of free-agents they have, they owe it to themselves to put someone competent behind the bench, French speaking or not.

The Jets and Moose are both scheduled to practice on Wednesday.

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