Montreal’s storied franchise, Les Canadiens, are in the market for a coach,  Guy Carbonneau having been ignominiously fired.

For many in this hockey-mad, linguiistically challenging province,  the idea of an unilingual anglophone coaching the Canadiens is akin to having a Scotsman serving as chef in a 3-star Michelin rated Paris restaurant; even if he could do the job, it simply isn’t done.

On the other hand, many argue the best coach for the job should be hired, regardless of his proficiency in the language of Bridget Bardot.  Still others say that to have a coach who can’t communicate with the ravenous media hordes in a province where hockey is clost to religion borders on sacrilege.

The last unilingual anglo to coach the Habs was Al MacNeil in the 1970-71 season and he won a Stanley Cup.

Very much in the running for the coaching job, is  Bob Hartley, the former Colorada and Atlanta coach, who is a francophone from Ontario, fluently bi-lingual from Ontario.

But what if Bob Gainey and the Canadiens’ brass decide the best coach available is an unilingual anglophone?  Should they hire him?

Before you answer in the affirmative, what would your answer be if the Toronto Maple Leafs were looking for  a coach and the best one  available was an unilingual francophone?  Should they hire him?

I thought so.


  1. 1

    It should be based on merit.

    The Habs are committed to developing young kids and promoting from within; that’s not Hartley’s strong suit. There’s no doubt Hartley is a great coach but Don Lever deserves a shot. He’s paid his dues and knows the kids inside and out. Its a shame Hartley would take precedence over Lever based on petty politics.

    As for the Toronto example, that’s lame to me. Here’s why: it assumes the dumbass you hire refuses to learn the language of his place. We’re not in 1955 anymore. If Lever is willing to learn French what’s the problem? Neil, say what you want, it’s bigotry either way.

    In European soccer, coaches of all nationalities get hired all the time in every country. More often than not, the coach learns the local language and customs. Same with the players. If they can do it there, why shouldn’t we here? Are we that insecure? Talk about limiting access to a larger talent pool. Besides, it’s AGAINST THE LAW to deny someone a job in the EU based on their language.

    Are the Habs in the business of winning or playing politics?

    Here’s a piece I wrote for Intersportswire/Blogcritics in 2007 about this subject.

  2. 2
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Learning the language is a must whoever and wherever you are if you want to work and live there.

  3. 3
    jim Says:

    Does anyone remember the anglo goalie who played under the name of Claude Bourque but is real name was Claude Burke?

  4. 4
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    The choice should up to the fans. A poll could be released asking the fans. There choice should be final. Its not as simple as this but the fans could be asked in another poll, which would you prefer a winning coach who is a unilingual anglophone, or a unilingual francophone coach who has a poor winning performance.

    The same question could be asked the Toronto fans. I think we might be surprised, since there last win I remember Frank Mahovlich with the Stanley Cup at Expo 67.

    I know this is theoretical because all N.H.L. francophone coaches are bilingual.

  5. 5

    Peter, I don’t agree fans should decide unless they own the team like we see with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Green Bay Packers and even Real Madrid. They send their reps and vote.

    But not in this case.

  6. 6

    Paul, of course. But here, we don’t seem to want to give anyone a chance. Like I said, if Lever takes French courses why not?

    AC Milan – the most trophied soccer club in the world – has a simple plan of action. For them, their players and coaches must learn Italian not because of nationalism but as a form of respect and reality. They give their players the full guide to learn all the customs and intricacies that make Milanese culture tick. If the coach or players don’t do that they will struggle. In other words, they directly help in transitioning their assets into the society to which they will work and represent.

    BUT THEY NEVER SAY NO TO A NON-ITALIAN BASED ON LANGUAGE. They go after the BEST. When money permits of course.

  7. 7
    Cornelius T.Zen Says:

    Good morrow, all!
    “For many in this hockey-mad, linguiistically challenging province, the idea of an unilingual anglophone coaching the Canadiens is akin to having a Scotsman serving as chef in a 3-star Michelin rated Paris restaurant; even if he could do the job, it simply isn’t done.”
    Many years ago, a very good chef by the name of Joe Buonacoursi was the chef at a little seafood restaurant where I had to good fortune to dine. I asked to speak with him, and was greeted with the thickest Glaswegian accent I had ever heard. He explained that his parents were, indeed, Italian, and that he had been, indeed, raised in Scotland.
    “…it simply isn’t done…” You go to a restaurant to eat, not to judge the linguistic abilities of the chef. You watch the Montreal Canadiens to see hockey (at least, there was a time you did) not to mark the coach on how he conjugates the verb, “to destroy the other team.”
    Maybe we could test David Beckham (with Real Madrid) on his Spanish, and forget that he scores goals, not grammar exams.
    Don’t get me started…CTZEn

  8. 8
    Chimera Says:

    Speaking strictly from the point of view of a Canucks fan and booster, if I had any say in the matter, I’d saddle every other team with coaches who spoke only Latvian, and then only on Tuesdays!

    *sigh* Hire the best you can afford. If he doesn’t speak the language, not to worry, half the players don’t speak it, either. Sign language and a big stick can go a long way towards getting the jopb done.

    I’m only half kidding.

  9. 9

    CT Zen,

    Small insignificant correction: Beckham now plays for AC Milan.

  10. 10
    Tony Kondaks Says:


    English and French have equal status on the level of federal government services (and on the level of provincial services for New Brunswick).

    That’s it as far as equality between the two languages goes.

    In the private sector — of which hockey teams are a part of — the real world rules. And in the real world, French is a folk language with little use or application, particularly in unilingual provinces such as Ontario.

    The best evidence that French is a folk language in Quebec is Bill 101. For if French was noy a folk language Bill 101 would not be necessary.

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