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Quebec culture minister upset at Habs

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Quebec government critical of Habs hiring non-French speaking coach

QUEBEC CITY — The Quebec government isn’t pleased about the hiring of a Montreal Canadiens coach who can’t speak French.

The province’s culture minister says she expects the Habs to correct the situation.

Christine St-Pierre isn’t quite calling for the firing of new coach Randy Cunneyworth, who was just hired over the weekend. But she says the Habs have given the impression his hiring is temporary, and she takes them at their word. The former NHL forward’s title is interim coach.

The hiring has created a frenzy of media reaction, including calls for a boycott of products associated with the Canadiens. But judging from the reaction on social-networking sites, the response of regular Montreal fans may be slightly less critical.

Identity debates like the current one occasionally place Quebec’s Liberal government in a quandary. The pro-Canada Charest government often faces pressure from its more nationalist opponents to take an aggressive stand in defending Quebec’s identity.

Critics of the hiring say the Canadiens are more than just a hockey team and, for more than a century, have been an institution that represents French-Canadian pride.

Canadiens owner Geoff Molson sent a letter to fans Monday to explain the hiring of Cunneyworth, who was elevated from his assistant coach job after Jacques Martin was fired Saturday with a 13-12-7 record.

“The action was taken to remedy the situation without further delay,” Molson wrote. “Randy Cunneyworth is a qualified and experienced coach who has earned the respect of the players and everyone within the organisation.”

Molson said language would be a factor when, at the end of the season, the team hires a permanent coach. He said finding a coach who can win is the main priority, but language ability will also count.

“It is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach,” he said.

One columnist Monday compared the Canadiens to Spanish soccer team Barcelona, which expects its players to learn the Catalan language and whose slogan is “More than a team.”

Francophone hockey writers are also wondering where else Quebecers can get a start in the NHL if the Canadiens won’t give them one.

They point out that most other Quebecers coaching in the NHL, including both of last year’s Stanley Cup finalists, got their start coaching the Habs.

Another common refrain heard in Montreal is that fans would be willing to support the hiring of a coach who can’t speak French if it were someone like the accomplished Mike Babcock, or local hero Kirk Muller.

The Habs have not had an only English-speaking coach since the 1970-71 season, when Al MacNeil coached them. They won a Stanley Cup that year but MacNeil had a poor relationship with some players and was demoted to the minors after the season.

A Toronto native, the 50-year-old Cunneyworth played 16 seasons in the NHL with the Sabres, Penguins, Jets, Whalers, Blackhawks and Senators, scoring 414 points in the regular season.

“I have the utmost respect for the language here and I am very aware of how important it is to try and learn the language,” he said after running his first practice. “Obviously I know a few words, and not all the good ones.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

What a crock. As far as I know, Scotty Bowman, Toe Blake, and Dick Irvin never spoke French.

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The Quebecois are a really unlikable, prejudiced bunch, arne't they?

I'm sure that most level-headed Quebecois think that their culture minister needs to get the sand out of her arse.

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Bob Hartley?

Stanley Cup winner, first language is French. May just wanna come back from Switzerland if a head coaching job was offered to him. But does he want to coach in Montreal?

Edited by WhiteLightning91

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What a crock. As far as I know, Scotty Bowman, Toe Blake, and Dick Irvin never spoke French.

Actually Scotty does speak french quite fluently. He just doesn't have an accent like Balki from Perfect Strangers.

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This is not suprising! Whats funny is that Montreal also has a huge Muslim population as well, and I know for a fact they don't speak French! I just to do not follow their logic on this?????

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For a southern wings fan, could I get a pronunciation of Quebecois?

Not very familar with the term and would be nice if I knew what the people of Quebec were called so I could enjoy the thread a little more.

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Think of how the Florida Panthers announcers PROBABLY pronounce Tomas Kopecky.

Now, we tend to make "Que" sound like "KWE", when it is actually pronounced "KAY". Does that help at all?

WingZNut13 likes this

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geez Cunneyworth has had like 2 games to coach so far? I understand the whole French thing, but in all seriousness how would they feel if he leads them deep into the playoffs and makes them into serious cup contenders?

I saw on NHL on the Fly tonight when they had Bob McKenzie on and he said that this kind of situation is slightly similar to when Marc Crawford was hired to coach the Nordiques years ago and he said that Crawford went to French lessons for several hours a day for like 3-4 months before the season started. Hope they really give the guy a chance to coach and see what he can do. I'd rather have a coach that wins hockey games over a coach that can speak another language any day of the week and twice on sunday.

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For a southern wings fan, could I get a pronunciation of Quebecois?

Not very familar with the term and would be nice if I knew what the people of Quebec were called so I could enjoy the thread a little more.

I've heard it usually as Keh-beh-kwa.

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I'm hardly a Quebecois, but the McKenzie story about Marc Crawford in Quebec is how I've always understood the situation - make the effort and they'll embrace you, even if it's not your first language.

That said, is there really any question that this attitude is holding back the franchise in a big way? The NHL is too competitive to let prejudice help make personnel decisions.

P. Marlowe and commadore183 like this

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For a southern wings fan, could I get a pronunciation of Quebecois?

Not very familar with the term and would be nice if I knew what the people of Quebec were called so I could enjoy the thread a little more.

Kay-beh-kwa. A female from Montreal would be a Québécoise, pronounced kay-be-kwaz.

To answer another question, Scotty Bowman was born and raised in Montreal, so one would assume he can speak French quite fluently.

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I'm sure that most level-headed Quebecois think that their culture minister needs to get the sand out of her arse.

I wouldn't be so sure, I bet theres a direct link between this attitude and that of the separatism bs they seem to always be going through. Like 40% of the quebec population feel they'd be better not a part of Canada. IMO there is a difference between caring about your culture and preserving your heritage and being an assholes.

VM1138 likes this

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The situation will be addressed in the off-season, or so they say. I'm guessing sooner, rather than later. Saddest is the fact that turning this rock over made Roy reappear.

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i think actual french people get a bad rap. my wife and i went to paris and central france for our honeymoon and everyone we met was gracious and accommodating (except for one lady working at a museum information booth who was annoyed that we had a question :blink:). one lady showed us how to sneak through the metro gates and another person actually paid our fare when our debit card wouldn't work.

we don't speak french, we just learned the basic "hi i don't speak french, do you speak english?" and i think just starting out a conversation like that went a long way.

and there was english everywhere, and most people spoke it well and didn't mind. i remember some high-up dope wanted to de-anglicize the word "email" and change it to "le courrier," but the people wouldn't have it.

that said, i have not heard one nice thing about french canadiens, and i wonder if they would be so gracious. i would love to visit the area just for the history but it's what i hear about the people keeping me away.

can you imagine the upheaval if the US banned all other languages and made english the official language?

and what's more, french people can't stand french canadiens.

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that said, i have not heard one nice thing about french canadiens, and i wonder if they would be so gracious. i would love to visit the area just for the history but it's what i hear about the people keeping me away.

I found everyone in Montreal to be very polite the two times I've visited. I started out trying to speak French, and most people could see I was struggling with it so they'd switch to English for me. Although I did get the distinct impression that if they thought I was from Anglo Canada instead of from the US they might not have been so accommodating, language-wise.

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Ok, get your s*** right about Scotty Bowman. This is a Wings forum, so your opinion about the language issue is secondary to getting things like that right.

This is from mlive in 2009:

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the fact that former Red Wings coach and current Chicago Blackhawks consultant Scotty Bowman made the Blackhawks' pick, speaking in French to the host Montreal audience before doing what few teams did in congratulating the Pittsburgh Penguins on winning the Cup (it's considered a draft-day courtesy).

source

Scotty grew up in nearby Verdun, which in his day was a majority English-speaking part of the Montreal area (its not anymore). He knew some French, obviously, but admits that he wasn't that great at it until he was behind the bench:

When Bowman's playing career ended prematurely, he started coaching the Canadiens junior team in Hull.

"We had some young players -- Claude Ruel was one of them -- who couldn't speak English. I was interested in coaching and was able to get a pretty good knowledge of French. With the Canadiens, even Mario Tremblay, he came from up north and couldn't speak English. I spoke to him in French. I was able to communicate and basically talk hockey."

source

Says Bowman about Cunneyworth:

"It'll be pretty tough sledding without a grasp of French," said Bowman. "I'm sure he recognizes this opportunity. I don't think the people there expect more than a working knowledge. I think if he can pick up just a working knowledge, they'd welcome him with open arms.

"I hope he can do it."

Zeowingsfan likes this

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I've been around Québec quite a few times and from what I can tell, Montréal is actually a pretty English speaking city, but as soon as you get outside of the city it becomes very French, very quickly.

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As a Montrealer, who is not fully fluent in french I expected some big push back like this. Montrealers complained about Gomez being an American Captain, etc. It's great that they hold the team so close to their cultural identity, but it can't be a team of locals and if they let such concerns guide their team it would handicap them.

The Secret likes this

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