October 31, 2007

Why Quebec City Will Never Have the NHL

The international language of airports is English: this is true in 180 different nations. The simple reason is ease of communication: planes can come in from anywhere in the world, and when hundreds of lives are at stake, that tends to take precedence over politics.

But things are... different... in Quebec. This is, after all, a province that officially reprimanded the French government for not doing enough to "protect the language". They are, frankly, hypersensitive to any perceived slight of French, and view themselves as its sacred guardians.

Hockey in Canada is our National Theatre, as Ken Dryden once noted. It's where our stories come from, and what we collectively know. A movement there, and Canada will feel it.

In Quebec, hockey is elevated to the level of religion. The rituals enacted by Les Habitants are followed by earnest disciples, discussed endlessly for nuance and meaning.

And where the sport is religion, and the language is political, a combination of the two can be strikingly volatile.

To modern times, now.

In the dressing rooms of the NHL, the language is English. This, despite the vast number of players who don't speak it as their first, or sometimes second, language. Yes, even in Montreal, the language is English, and it's as much a compromise as it is a practical consideration: count the birthplaces of the players on the current roster, and you'll see why.

There has been some mention of Quebec City (I like the option myself) as a location for any NHL team that ultimately fails in its current location, whoever that happens to be, but it's not going to happen.

And here's why.

This isn't lawyer Guy Bertrand's only foray into linguistic stupidity and hockey.

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posted by Thursday at 6:06 pm


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