Former Hartford Whaler Randy Cunneyworth’s Language Barrier Issue


Randy Cunneyworth actually speaks the correct language for the Montreal Canadiens.

It’s an interesting issue.  Former Hartford Whaler Randy Cunneyworth was recently promoted to the position of Montreal Canadiens’ head coach after the firing of Jacques Martin.  His hiring has unfortunately caused a firestorm in the local media.  Not because of his relative lack of experience, or the fact that the Canadiens needed different leadership and he was merely Martin’s rag doll, Cunneyworth’s issue is that he doesn’t speak French in this French-Canadian city.  In fact, Canadiens’ management has now come out to declare that Cunneyworth’s title is “interim” until he learns how to speak the official language of Quebec (no the official language of Quebec is not condescension or disdain, the official language is French).  Management rationale is that its permanent coach will speak French.  Seriously?

We live in a society where tolerance is as important an ideal as any other that we’re taught in ethics class.  But yet, in hiding behind excuses like “nationalism” and “the Habs are the people’s team,” aren’t all of detractors just labeling themselves as intolerant?  Aren’t they just just proving themselves the assholes that many in English-speaking Canada already think they are?  I’m hoping that this fervor is not really from the fans (don’t they care about wins and wins only?) but instead from a lazy, overwrought media looking to sell some newpapers.

Cunneyworth is in Montreal to coach.  If he wants to keep his job, he actually needs to relate to and communicate with his players.  Take a look at Montreal’s current roster.  15 of the 28 players on the current Canadiens’ roster is actually from the United States of from English speaking Canada.  Only three players are from Quebec, the same number of players as are from the Czech Republic and from Russia.  Should Cunneyworth also learn how to speak Russian and Czech? Ironically, my argument is that the next Montreal coach needs to speak English.

This is probably just a fabrication from the Quebec media since having a French speaking coach is only important to the media during post games.  But instead of hiring an interpreter to translate for him (just like virtually every other coach or player who doesn’t speak the language – you think Bobby Valentine spoke a lick of Japanese when he was there managing?).  Ultimately, I remember Cunneyworth from his days with the Whalers.  He’ll be ok, he’s a tough hombre.  I just wish he doesn’t have to learn a dying language to keep his job.  I hope he has a good attorney.

photo courtesy of Globe and Mail

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