Cunneyworth's lack of French not going over well with some

Posted By: Richard Deschamps · 12/18/2011 3:34:00 PM

Perhaps it was predictable.

At a time when anti-English sentiment is on the rise in some quarters in the province, the hiring of a unilingual anglophone coach of the Montreal Canadiens is drawing negative reaction among some columnists and activists.

Randy Cunneyworth, a former NHLer and former coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs, began the season as the Canadiens' assistant coach, backing head coach Jacques Martin. With Martin's firing on Saturday, Cunneyworth was tapped to replace him.

Cunneyworth is a Toronto native who doesn't speak French, and in Montreal, that alone is usually enough to disqualify someone from becoming the Habs' head coach, regardless of his hockey savvy.

There hasn't been a unilingual anglo behind the Habs' bench since Bob Berry, who held the job between 1981 and 1984.

Columnist Denis Poissant with the Journal de Montréal is calling the hiring 'unacceptable', particularly in light of the recent 'scandals' involving unilingual anglos at the National Bank and the Caisse de Depôt.

"The coach of the Canadiens is the most scrutinized personality in Quebec, even more than the prime minister, Celine Dion and even [Quebec City mayor] Regis Labeaume," Poissant wrote. "And Cunneyworth can't answer questions in French. It doesn't make any sense."

Gilles Rhéaume is upset

Meanwhile, Gilles Rhéaume, a well-known pro-French activist who speaks for an outfit called the Ligue Québécoise contre la Francophobie Canadienne, is up in arms.

Just before 7 o'clock Sunday morning, his group issued a news release, accusing the Montreal Canadiens' management of what he calls francophobia, and is calling for Cunneyworth to be summarily fired.

"There are many in Quebec and in all of French America who are asking, the day after a unilingual anglophone was given the head coaching job, if the Canadiens' management hasn't been stricken with francophobia, characterized by a total insensitivity to the French fact in Quebec," Rhéaume wrote. "Not being able to speak French is a severe handicap for someone who occupies such a position. Knowledge of the language of Quebec is an integral part of the skills required to lead the Montreal Canadiens."

Group wants to boycott Molson products

And the group Impératif Français is going even further. It wants Quebecers to boycott products made by Molson, the family which owns the Montreal Canadiens.

"Haven't you had enough of being laughed at?" the group wrote in a news release. Never, and we mean never, would the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Calgary Flames or the Vancouver Canucks hire a unilingual French coach."

"Democracy needs to express itself here. Vote against this affront by not buying Molson products. There's the penalty you can impose on Molson for its gross misconduct and its bodycheck against Quebec."

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  1. John posted on 12/18/2011 05:01 PM
    It doesn"t matter what language the coach speaks,wheather it's Chineese, Russian or Germain as Long as the team wins and gets good points is what matters.
    People just need to relax and just let it be.
  2. Ja Belanger posted on 12/18/2011 05:26 PM
    Wow, get a life, it is just a game. It must be a slow day if that is all
    they have to complain about.

    Just wait till they hire a Russian coach, then what.

  3. jean posted on 12/18/2011 08:40 PM
    I'm embarrassed to be Quebecois!...Its too bad there are those of us that are so insecure as to do to others as they would not want done to them...shame on all who are looking to see the new coach fired for things other than his coaching abilities.
  4. DonaldD_2 posted on 12/18/2011 09:02 PM
    If Randy Cunneyworth gets the team into the playoffs his language won't be an issue. Long ter, the Canadiens will probably, once again, look for the best French speaking coach for next year as opposed to getting the best coach available.

    As to Gilles Rhéaume, he is a cretin. He, and those of his ilk, are a blot on humanity.
  5. alrev posted on 12/18/2011 09:13 PM
    It is amazing that a group of racists even get the time of day publically! Last week it was those who don't speak proper french. Get a life, your patois is the worst French spoken anywhere in the world. It's an insult to anyone who does speak proper French. And by the way the coach was not chosen to please radical Quebecois-, he was chosen to coach!
  6. Ken posted on 12/18/2011 10:03 PM
    What a bunch of nonsense. This is a business and what’s important is winning. We should all focus our time and energy on getting the team back on track not. The new coach and the Molson family deserve our support.
  7. GoSox posted on 12/19/2011 01:24 AM
    All these protesting individuals and groups are responsible for the huge economic growth of English Toronto at Montreal's expense.
  8. Jon posted on 12/19/2011 07:21 AM
    I hope the Canadien's wait for a French speaking coach as there are many great uni-lingual coaches out there - Mike Babcock for one. We live in a dream world of former glory days that will likely never return here. Most French Canadien players don't even want to play here -HELLO wake up call. The language issue is a side show for seperatist groups who continue to spew racist hatred at every opportunity.

    If you really want to win then the ability of the coach to COACH is what you are looking for. Languages can be learned. Jaques Martin had a winning record and took us to the playoffs division finals - not bad for a failure eh? A better solution would be to fire some of the overpaid players who cannot follow a simple game plan.
  9. Mark Job posted on 12/19/2011 09:59 AM
    As a Quebecer born and raised, who happens to have English as his Mother tongue, I get so sick and tired of all the Anti-Anglophone sentiment which STILL raises its voice LOUD and STRONG in Quebec society ! I am fully bilingual, but it wasn't good enough for me to be able to stay and make a living in Quebec, so I had to leave. Everything ! - And I do mean everything gets jammed through the focus of language politics in Quebec - Even hockey, and it's nauseating ! The anglophone community continues to suffer a slow death by a thousand cuts, and Xenophobic French language bigots, like Gilles Rheaume, continue to assault English Quebec. The great Irony here is this is yet another expression of Anglophobia - Not Francophobia !
  10. Joe posted on 12/19/2011 04:03 PM
    That is so stupid there are many coaches training clubs in Middle East and Persian gulf who do not speak language of their players they communicate in English or French as Maradona in Emirates and no problem with that -Only in Québec.
  11. Penny posted on 12/20/2011 01:02 PM
    For goodness sakes people, isn't it getting to be too much now? Hire a translater for the french press just like the english press do and move on!!
  12. mike posted on 12/20/2011 05:23 PM
    When he wins the stanley cup,language will not be an issue. The whole world is laughing at tha QUEBEC LANGUAGE ISSUE
  13. Dane posted on 12/20/2011 09:49 PM
    these groups need to drink more, theres no such thing as a language barrier when you're drunk.
  14. Uncle Zio Jimmy posted on 12/22/2011 03:30 PM
    In what other industry does the public and media have the right to question the hiring of CEO's or for that matter even care by voicing their opinon, so why the Canadiens? A coach's job is to coach and make his team win, the rest is icing on the cake. The Canadiens woes are not the coaches, they lack leadership on the ice from their captain, a spark plug or catalyst / clutch player, team chemistry, the burning desire to win and confidence, oh and a little talent would go a long way to. The coach can help in some of these matters but not all. If we brought back Scotty Bowman, the undisputed king of coaches and he failed to inspire the team and get them winning, would it be a language issue then?
  15. The T posted on 12/22/2011 04:20 PM
    Does it Matter who is coach anyhow at this point ? The team has tanked , not going to make the play-offs and if it wasn't that they played in Montreal the seats would be empty as it is in Miami where you can fly spend the night watch a game and come back home and still pay less then watching a game at the Bell Centre
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