PENTICTON, BC. — With the Canadiens struggling to pile up the wins and as more and more fans are getting off the Jacques Martin bandwagon, the debate often turns to whom he should be replaced with. While names are brought forward, the focus of the debates are not so much focused on the candidates’ qualifications as much as on the language they speak.
It’s no secret to anyone that Montreal is in a very unique position not only for its history, but for the language spoken in the city, in the province which they rule. Bob Gainey, Larry Robinson and Ken Dryden are three perfect examples of players who, in the glory years of this storied franchise, were learning the language in order to establish a better relationship with their fans.
But how important is it for a head coach to be bilingual when the language spoken on the ice and in the room is solely English?
Over the last 30 years, only one unilingual Anglophone head coach was hired by the Habs and that was Bob Berry, who was at the helm from 1981 to 1984. Since then, the Canadiens have had 11 consecutive bilingual coaches in Lemaire, Perron, Burns, Demers, Tremblay, Vigneault, Therrien, Julien, Gainey, Cabonneau and Martin. Many of them ended up having great careers after they left the organization — they have the Canadiens to thank for giving them their first opportunity in the NHL.
Just last year, the Canadiens had to let go of one of the best upcoming head coaches, all languages combined, when Steve Yzerman came knocking at Pierre Gauthier’s door for Hamilton’s coach, Guy Boucher. The Canadiens replaced Boucher by Randy Cunneyworth, who has since been replaced with another bilingual coach in Clément Jodoin.
Montreal is the busiest, craziest place to coach when it comes to media coverage. Most of the media is French, as is the majority of the population in Quebec. Further, the only TV station to broadcast all 82 Habs games is RDS, a French sports channel. Some feel that the Canadiens have an obligation to serve their local fan base, their media and their sponsors in French and it’s not too farfetched.
Others do, however, feel like it is the organization’s duty to win, to put the best candidate available in that position regardless of the language spoken. They feel that players all speak English and that an assistant-coach could be bilingual and do some of the interviews. It’s hard to argue against that train of thoughts as well.
When choosing a new head coach and general manager what do you believe is the best hiring policy for the on-ice success of the Montreal Canadiens?
- Merit should be the primary consideration. (98%, 304 Votes)
- Language-spoken should be the primary consideration. (2%, 6 Votes)
Total Voters: 310
Having lived in Quebec in French only for the first 25 years of my life, and now for living in BC 20 plus years, I do realize that there are legitimate points made on both sides, none better than the other. Writing, tweeting and exchanging in both official languages, I also can’t help but to notice that the difference in opinion is often highly driven by the language of the individuals and/or their physical address.
Either way, it will be hard to get everyone on the same page with this debate and the only way I can see a quick end to it is to see Jacques Martin getting replaced with someone who will bring back the pride in wearing the CH, with someone who will be able to turn this franchise around.