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