Loons Want Symbols, Fans Want Stanley

| September 18, 2010

by Rick Stephens, AllHabs.net

AllHabs.net was offline for a brief time in the wee hours of Friday morning. At the same time, there was a major blackout in Provo, Utah. Logic dictates that since the home of Brigham Young University is the location for our service provider, the power outage was to blame for the disruption to our readers.

I’m not buying it. I blame Pauline Marois.

It’s a simple matter of following her lead. The Parti-Quebecois leader has demonstrated that its acceptable in her world to make outrageous claims that are completely devoid of sense.

Examples? They are far too numerous to list. Besides, this is not a political forum. But this time Marois and her xenophobic colleagues have set their sights on the Montreal Canadiens.

Marois said that the roster of the team does not reflect the reality of Quebec, and that the lack of a francophone identity promotes federalism.

“[The Canadiens are] a symbol of our pride to succeed in this sport, and I think the Quebecers would like to have more Francophones in this team,” said Marois.

Marois’ language critic, Pierre Curzi, was less diplomatic during an appearance on the program “Les Francs-tireurs.”

“The people who are federalists and the people who don’t wish Quebec to become a country, who don’t wish French to flourish, they know very well that you must take over a certain number of symbols of identity. And me, I believe there’s been a taking possession by the federal power over the Canadiens club,” said Curzi.

The makeup of the team was all part of a coordinated federalist plot, theorized Curzi. He summed it up by saying, “It’s not by chance.”

Over the years, Curzi has made bigoted statements certainly well beyond the boundaries allowed for a Canadian politician who is not a member of the PQ. I suspect that the most stinging descriptor in that sentence to Curzi is the word “Canadian.”

The Prime Minister’s office responded to statements by the PQ saying that the historic team is a rare institution that unites all Quebecers and should be kept that way.

Not that any of this PQ blather is true, but I have to wonder, what’s wrong with promoting federalism anyway? Marois and her tin-foil hat wearing pals are trying to demonize the word. But isn’t it the job of the federal government – not just this one, but any federal government – to do what’s in the best interest of Canada?

Following his outrageous comments about the Canadiens, Curzi argued the case for an NHL team in Quebec City, so that “we’ll have a team that will be our team, that will resemble us.”

Like many zealots, Curzi lives in a bubble that warps his perception of reality. The composition of an average NHL roster has been global for quite some time. The multicultural demographics of Montreal are likely far outside the comfort level of someone like Curzi.

But Curzi hopes that his ‘uptopian’ dream can be realized in Quebec City. A team with a homogeneous roster of “pure-laine” would surely prove hockey superiority and be a shining beacon for separatism. It’s a little too close to master race-esque talk for most reasonable-minded Quebeckers.

While the PQ has become the self-appointed watchdog for any form of pro-Canada instrument, they don’t seem to mind accepting the 6.0 by 2.75 inch symbol with the Queen’s image from the federal government (and plenty of them) to fund the building of a new arena.

When the NHL expands or entertains a franchise relocation, Quebec City will merit some discussion. Its lack of corporate support will put the city behind Canadian rivals such as Hamilton, Markham/Vaughn, and Winnipeg.

However, there are many fans in Montreal who would love Quebec City to be at the top of the list to silence the nonsensical ongoing headcount of Francophones on the Canadiens roster. Assembling a team whose prime directive was politics rather than choosing from the best available players would make for an interesting rival.

The comments by Marois and Curzi put the Canadiens organization on the defensive. Spokesperson Dominick Saillant said that the Habs have more French-speaking players than any other team in the NHL, with 11 at training camp.

When asked his position on the controversy, Geoff Molson, chairman of the partnership group who owns the Canadiens, said “We are in the hockey business and not into politics. I can tell you we don’t talk about politics in the dressing room.”

Perhaps, language politics is not a topic in the dressing room but it most certainly has been discussed in the board room.

Current President Pierre Boivin has made it clear on many occasions that it is the team’s mission to place Francophones in key positions of the organization. The Canadiens have gone out of their way to achieve that goal sometimes to the detriment of the team’s success.

Coaching is a prime example where bypassing the league’s best to fulfill a language requirement has cost the organization dearly. Giving contracts to players like Patrice Brisebois when no other team in the league would, or giving Guillaume Latendresse a free pass around the normal development hurdles is evidence that language politics also crept into decisions about the on-ice product.

It’s time that Marois, Curzi and Boivin learn that language, politics and hockey just don’t mix.

Look down the street to the Montreal Alouettes. Fans are happy to look past the narrow-minded labels that some would place on the players and management. All they see is reigning Grey Cup Champions.

Similarly, true supporters of the Canadiens only want the best players and management possible who will bring a Stanley Cup back to Montreal. It’s exciting to know that same passion for the Habs is shared by fans in Jarkata, Sydney, Rio de Janiero, San Diego and Tokyo.

It’s also uplifting to know that future stars of the team like Avtsin, Natinnen, Eller, Subban, Leblanc, Tinordi and Weber hail from all corners of the globe.

It’s a beautiful thing to everyone but the dinosaurs wanting to hide in their insular world from change. So let them crawl out every now and again to say something silly and draw attention to themselves. We’ll just keep focused on Stanley.

(Image credit: Gary Clement, National Post)

Recommended reading:

Federalists taking control of Montreal Canadiens: Parti Quebecois by Graeme Hamilton, National Post

Hey PQ, the Habs aren’t the only team who don’t reflect their city by Joe O’Connor, National Post

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Category: Feature

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About the Author ()

Rick is the Editor-in-Chief, lead contributor, and owner of the All Habs network of websites. His mission is to build a community of Canadiens fans who are informed, engaged and connected. He is the vision behind all four sites within the network - All Habs, Habs Tweetup, We Are Canadiens, and The Montreal Forum - and is responsible for the design and layout of each. In concert with the strong belief that "Habs fans are everywhere!", Rick is pleased that people use All Habs as a conduit to find and connect with other Habs fans worldwide. He is also proud that Habs Tweetups have allowed fans to meet in person and develop long lasting friendships.

Comments (7)

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  1. moeman says:

    Good read.

    I suggest Québec City cannot afford nor will it be able to sustain an NHL team but just to shut them up, bring on the nordiques. Having said that, an NHL team in Québec will not diminish the racist rancour spewed by the pure woolers. It’ll get worse as the rank and file media jackals that hate the Habs will run like rats to head north and cheer ‘their’ team and continue to rip at the hockey heart of the Montréal Canadiens and her fans.

    (Whilst here, see Monsieur Boone took another shot at AllHabs. Juvenile behaviour, maybe he did it from his basement, in his underwear.)

  2. Number31 says:

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

    No one remembers the same crap now heaped on our Habs was also heaped on the Nords back then eh? I remember the old “Sakic? Stastny? Forsberg? Ils sont pas Quebecois!”. Nevermind they had some of the best players in the League…but they were not local!

    The Separatist ideology was one of the reasons why the Nords failed. I don’t buy the dream of a sudden resurrection of a rivalry. It didn’t work much for Ottawa, who back in the old days was a true rivalry with the Habs of those early 1900s. (Now it’s like a second home game). Frankly I think the rivalry and all those big fights were mostly because of Hunter being a jerk, but I digress…

    And in all likelihood if a team moves to become the Nords, it won’t be their Southern darlings the Tampa Bay Lightning, but most likely the Atlanta Thrashers or Florida Panthers who don’t really have much in the way of Quebec-born players. (Hypothetically, of course, not to anger some of their fans that do support them but it’s the reality they may face one day, especially with the Panthers tarping off their upper bowl). The Bolts just got a real good new owner and I seriously doubt he’ll send them on their merry way North for as long as he’s running it.

  3. smalrus says:

    I want to know what Jacques Parizeau is saying… Or in other words, WWRLD?

    Funnily enough, I think Curzi must have read my piece and said “I’m going the opposite way and running with this.” Your point about the Als is dead on, and it was more or less the same with the Expos as well. How is it not a double standard when certain sporting institutions are “owned” by a province, yet others are not. Frankly, the consistency of logic should be bolstered, otherwise you just end up being xenophobic at best.

  4. kyleroussel says:

    @Number31 don’t forget Kamensky, Ricci, Sundin, Hextall, Foote, Hunter, Clark, Young, etc.

    I wonder what fools like Marois and Curzi (and the braying donkeys that follow them) are remembering when they hope for a team in Quebec that would properly “represent the province”? It seems to me that the Nordiques most important players hailed from anywhere but Quebec.

    While we are on this topic, wasn’t Marois the one praising the Habs during the playoffs for representing Quebec as underdogs in a harsh world out to get them? Zip forward a few months and now the Canadiens have been subverted by the Government and not at all a team to be proud of? I’m always shocked that these people not only got through elementary school, but managed to work their way to the upper levels of politics.

    I’m glad Molson was as blunt as he was. Its about time someone stand up take a smart position in this debate.

  5. Cecil Cripps says:

    I understand the ideas expressed here that hockey is a game to be waged in wins and losses not languages and culture. However, in this case the culture and language aspect should be considered. For the idea historically was to get the french canadien hockey interested in hockey. As far as your example of language and politics coming in on the team Latendresse is a french canadien as is Brisebois. They let Latendresse go for not as they did for Halak. I believe that people who don’t understand the cultural impact the habs have on Quebec society just have to look at stories like the sweater and the Rocket Richard story.

    I believe that any manger of Les Canadiens should do as the ex manager of Colorado Avalanche ( Pierre Lacroix) and come with idea that if drafting a player of equal skills error on the side of the French player. That way the players like Perron, Gagne, Tanguay, Bergeron and the like would be habs from the time they are graduated to the NHL instead of coming in when there skill set is diminished with age.

  6. As i just tweeted:

    I wonder how Pauline Marois would feel about having a #Habs team full of French Quebecois “MUTE” players. I’m serious.

  7. moeman says:

    n31, the media will make sure there will be Nords vs. Habs hate.