But are they French enough?
It began with Saku Koivu. He had to endure the ‘French Question’ torment for a decade. It came to the point where his teammates began defending their captain from the onslaught of the French media.
With Koivu gone (along with basically everyone else whose time was apparently done), the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens will inevitably inherit the ‘French Question’. The massive turnover that characterized the Montreal Canadiens’ 2009 free agency period saw many new faces arrive in town; none of which were remotely close to la belle province. In fact, geographically speaking, the nearest “hometown boy” is Mike Cammalleri, from Richmond Hill, Ontario (gasp).
Now, coming from a French-Canadian background and studying primarily in political science and history, I can clearly see how the importance of having French-Canadians on the team (or lack thereof) is a factor that many French-Canadians take quite seriously. Long gone are the days of the legendary French-Canadian players such as Richard, Geoffrion and Lafleur. Replacing them are the likes of Alaska’s Gomez, New York’s Gionta and, of course, Toronto’s Cammalleri. Moreover, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the NHL has become the home of an increasing number of European players as well, with Montreal being no exception.
Given today’s diaspora of players that make up the NHL, combined in part with Canada’s emphasis on multiculturalism, it is difficult to imagine that the Habs will ever be the French-Canadian superstar team of years past. Rather, the Anglophones and Europeans that make up the majority of the team should reflect a new era in hockey and a discarding of old politics.
Still, the oftentimes hardline talking heads on television will yearn for their superstar French-Canadian captain, but he may never come. The reasons vary from cultural pressure to unfeasible expectations. At any rate, and for better or for worse, this is our team for the foreseeable future. Whoever the captain may be next season (if there will even be one), he will inevitably inherit the weight of the opinions of the French-Canadians media.
Perhaps it is best that we know not who the next ‘C’ will be, less the media begin to hound him before he can ever set foot on the ice.