Hockey and Language

Language debates fascinate me. My local hockey team gets me going, whether winning or losing. Now both interests are combined.

You may not have heard, but the appointment of new Habs coach Randy Cunneyworth is creating quite the stir in Quebec. So much so that it has become a question of politics. In his editorial, Henry Aubin, journalist for the Montreal Gazette, writes strong words to this effect:

The club’s federalist ownership is inadvertently blowing fresh oxygen on the cooling embers of sovereignist fervour. Defence of the language is what powered sovereignty in the 1970s, and Molson’s Canadiens could be on their way to replacing Eaton’s – whose salespeople spoke only English, legend has it – as the iconic symbol of anglo insensitivity.

Apart from all the cultural, political and social issues raised by Mr. Cunneyworth’s hiring, what about the legal aspects of all this? If someone has the talent/necessary skills/qualifications to lead a team to the Stanley Cup (one of the most important tasks in a head coach job description), does/should language mean as much? Or can it be said to be a job requirement? Is there an element of discrimination in all of this? My colleague, Gabriel Granatstein, wrote an interesting piece on the issue of the French language and hockey players in a different blog posting last year. 

I certainly look forward to seeing the outcome of this debate.

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