Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NHL Anti Francophone?

1) That is the accusation leveled in a round about way by author of a new book called 'Le Québec mis en échec'. For those of you who aren't bi/multi-lingual that means 'Quebec Bodychecked'. A book published by former National Hockey League player Bob Sirois. In the book he examined four decades of professional drafts, comes to the conclusion that francophone Quebecers are systematically thwarted by an "anti-francophone virus" plaguing the NHL

2) Before we get into the merits of the book we felt we should share a little back ground with our readers of the history there. If you are a hockey fan but have never traveled to Canada, specifically Quebec province, you are probably not fully aware of the intense animosity there is between francophones (French Speakers) and Anglophones (Everyone else). The closest analogy we can come up with is the racial divide here in the US that still exists despite slavery having ended over 140 years ago, as welll as anti discrimination laws past 40+ yrs ago. In Quebec (A former French colony) in many quarters its as if the war that the French lost to England was waged in the past decade. In fact you might have come across a car from Quebec and read the little saying at the base of their license tag: "Je me Souviens", which literally means " I Remember". No gray area there as this refers to their French ancestry, even though that war took place even BEFORE the revolutionary war here.

3) Fast forward to modern day Canada and you still have a big divide over language. Even though French is one the two official languages of Canada, many English speakers feel put off at having to pay extra to make their areas accessible to Francophones, and vise versa in Quebec. Try going to a smaller Quebec city and find someone willing to speak English and go to BC and try to find someone who can understand French, etc. So its understandable that some might find this same animosity within the hockey culture.

4) While we don't doubt that there is a small degree of discrimination by one group against the other, we feel its unlikely that there is a systemic anti Franco-phone bias within the NHL. Sure, there are undoubtedly occurrences of racial epithets delivered from time to time, but we can't see there being a well thought out, or even reflexive avoidance of employing players just because of where they are from. NHL teams, like any organization's first goal is to win. It matters not who can deliver that. If a GM/team thinks they can better win with a particular player they will draft/play him regardless of what his native language is.

5) From what we've heard Sirois attempts to demonstrate with stats and numbers that the hockey league's managers don't hold French-Canadian players in as high esteem as their anglophone peers. We are sure that he could find numbers to correlate his hypothesis, but as Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) correctly said: "There are lies, dam lies and statistics". Meaning anyone can form and twist numbers to make their point. Sirois states: "If you're francophone and your son is talented in minor hockey, anglicize his name and you will double his chances of being drafted".

6) He then goes on to get at the crux (in our opinion of his selling point), Quebec's own Montreal Canadiens run by a Anglophone ( Bob Gainey). Quebec hockey players are headed for extinction with the Montreal Canadiens," he writes. He points out that the team's general manager, previously held the same position at Dallas for eight years. Since Mr. Gainey's arrival in Montreal, the number of francophones drafted by the Canadiens has dropped sharply. One of his remedies he prescribes is a return of professional hockey to Quebec City. (See our post on this upcoming soon). Not sure how that would change a perceived injustice other than to guarantee a few Quebecers an NHL job, but would it alter the way the other teams do business? Probably not. All in all we have to say that it just belies modern hockey logic to intentionally, or passively avoid attaining the best players available. We are saddened that Siois is evidently attempting to play into the intense dislike the two groups in Canada have for eachother, and sell a few books in the process. Thumbs down Bob!

1 comment:

La Grenouille said...

You do not know how things run here faux. Good try to decribe how it ferels but not give enough how much we are hated by the english. I have not read the book but i could tell you even prior to that the nhl didn't give same respect to Quebecers. Unless we are the star player no one give us a chance. How many 3rd and 4th line player are French?

Contact the Media