Thursday, May 03, 2007

The feeling in Quebec

At the heart of what's happening with this goofy Shane Doan business is the nationalism debate that has been raging in the province of Quebec since, well, ever. Politicians are attacking an English hockey player who allegedly made anti-francophone statements in the hopes of winning votes — and that alone tells us just where this country is at.

It's all very absurd. Actually, it's more than that: It's downright stupid.

In an earlier thread, commenter Robert sheds some light on what might be the mood in Quebec, albeit what he offers is obviously (or at least hopefully) an extreme point of view.

It includes allegations of Hockey Canada's anti-Quebec bias, questioning Steve Yzerman's suitability for the GM position due to his American citizenship, and other such nonsense. But this is what we're dealing with, and it explains in part why Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson was called out onto the carpet in Parliament today to explain his actions.

It's extremism, and a ploy by a politician to appeal to a certain zealot viewpoint that sees fit to lash out against even the most innocuous statements.

What Doan — or another player on his team, as it were — is alleged to have said is "fucking French," a reference directed at four francophone officials who were working a game in Montreal. And, to me, that's not a racist statement — and certainly not a comment worthy of the attention of Canadian MPs.

But, there it is, on the front page of every paper and the top of every newscast, fulfilling the wishes of the very extremists we should be ignoring at every turn.

UPDATE Reader Arnold Isbister offers these thoughts in an email:
It is us, the common people along with our voice(the media) who must voice our disapproval of political self-agendas. This has nothing to do with racism & sports but to find some sacrificial goat for their mandate. They latch onto something 2yrs old which was already resolved, put in some new words for a different slant and attack not only a proven innocent man but ourselves too for supporting our National team. Quebec should tell these so-called leaders to "pack it - you're off the Team!". Really, who do they think they are?
Sentiments shared by most, no doubt.



At 5:12 p.m., May 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand how Robert could imply that Yzerman basically sabatoged his team by not taking French players (like Lecavalier, St. Louis or Boucher).

Maybe I'm just a Yank but it would seem perhaps the NHL playoff schedule or player's personal decision might have affected their availibilty more than a bias by the decision maker.

It doesn't take a genius to see that you'd rather have the guy who lead the NHL in goals over just about any player, regardless of what province he hails from.

If this were the Olympics and guys like Brodeur and Luongo were passed over for Cam Ward or Roloson maybe he'd have a point.

At 5:25 p.m., May 03, 2007, Blogger Reagen Sulewski said...

According to Nicholson, apparently 9 francophone players were asked by Yzerman to be on the team, but all turned him down.

At 5:26 p.m., May 03, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

If the Canadians want to disown Steve Yzerman, we'll happily take him down here.

This is the goofiest.

At 5:50 p.m., May 03, 2007, Anonymous Orange Orangutan said...

I'm sure all of Gagne, Lecavalier, St. Louis, Savard, et al were invited to play and would have been welcomed openly. No one in their right mind would not want to include players of that calibre - especially when the pressure to win reigns supreme in Canadian hockey. If the case truly is that these French Canadian players were shunned for simply being French Canadian (or in some twisted form of retaliation or protest), then that is a problem. But I think that is so far from the reality, it's not even worth pondering.

Look at all of the eligible English players that aren't on the team (for whatever reason) Crosby, Smyth, Sakic, Whitney, Kariya, Richards, Iginla, Souray, Legwand, Horton, Boyle, McCabe, Arnott, Tucker, Bouwmeester.

The papers here out west have shown that the comments from French Canadian citizens overwhelmingly believe this is a non-issue and is rather embarassing.

At 7:07 p.m., May 03, 2007, Blogger Bleu, Blanc et Rouge said...

And here's what I say, as a Montreal citizen, what's happening with this situation.

At 8:13 p.m., May 03, 2007, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

Whether you claim to be French, English, White, Black, Canadian, American, Catholic, Hindu (etc) if you identify yourself as part of a tribe instead of as an individual, you are a victim and a loser.
To suggest Yzerman would select players based on whether their ancestors backed Wolfe or Montcalm is the product of a febrile brain. He wants to win. If he could get Slovak-American Paul Stastny to renounce his ancestry and citizenship and play for Canada, I'm sure he'd take him in a heartbeat.
I expect cheap point-scoring from hacks like Coderre. But it's disappointing to see that bloviator Ken Dryden chirping in on the side of inanity.
Has anyone bothered to ask how shrivelled Cormier's nutsack must be to have complained about this "incident" in the first place. Or worried that his three colleagues that night actually signed their names to the complaint? Refs that thin-skinned usually get weeded out at lower levels.
If politicians want to do something about hockey that might have a positive impact on the social fabric, look into how junior hockey teams billet 15 year olds in cities hundreds of miles away from their families and feed these poor kids into the waiting arms of pedophiles like Graham James (to name but one). Or try to figure out how players keep getting paralyzed or permanently concussed due to vicious hits and armour-plated gear.

At 10:50 p.m., May 03, 2007, Anonymous Matt D said...

This controversy is stupid, no doubt. But it would be a lot easier to think that it was stupid (and, again, it is stupid) if every member of the media wasn't so quick to insist that this was a plot on the part of those damned Quebekers to get more money and break the country apart.

There's no evidence that Doan said anything, and, as far as anti-French slurs go, it was pretty minor even if it did happen. But...

People in English Canada ARE racist, and DO saw nasty things about French people, all the time. I'm French Canadian, but my English is good, so lots of people don't know. And I can say for sure that there's lots of anti-French sentiment in this country, because people insult French-Canadians around me all the time. And the insistence that this is no big deal and just a plot by the stupid selfish Frenchies kinda confirms it, in the eyes of French Canadians. We'd be more inclined to agree that it was dumb if people who really ARE anti-french (Don Cherry, I'm looking at you) weren't clambouring to tell us that we were being petty.

Matt D

At 12:10 a.m., May 04, 2007, Anonymous Robert said...

James,first let me say how much I enjoy your blog and the work and effort you put into it. It is one of the best hockey blogs on the web. I particularily appreciate the fact you respond to posters and encourage good respectful interchanges. Therefore, I was disappointed that you would call me an extremist, just because I hold views you don't.

First, let's deal with your statement "f--king french - and to me that's not a racist statement". Let's suppose that the officials were Jewish and the player called them "f--king Jews". Would you still argue that the statement was not racist or anti - semetic. If you do, then it is you who are the extremist - not me.

I don't believe you really meant that statement, and that on second thought you would like to retract it.

Second, nowhere in my post did I say Yzerman was anti french and did not invite Quebecois players to participate. I beleive he did invite them and sincerely wanted them to participate,but they all refused. Now do you believe that ALL NINE invitees said no because of injury or some other valid reason, or did they say no because they don't see a lot of Quebecois representation at the senior levels of Hockey Canada.

Do you believe that all nine would have said no if Mario Lemieux, or some other prominent French Canadian hockey official had made the phone call and stated how much Hockey Canada needed their participation "en francais".

With regard to Yzerman's citizenship being a nonesense issue, I'm sorry but we are going to have to strongly disagree on this one.

When I see Canadian men and women shedding blood and paying the ultimate price for their country, I get rather upsat that we honour someone who has "turned his back" on Canada with the job of GM for Team Canada.

Steve Yzerman no longer wants to live in this country, he no longer wants to pay Canadian taxes and help develop this country, and he no longer wants to return to his local community and contribute to amateur hockey which helped develop his skills and helped to make him the successful wealthy man he is today. No, he instead wants to be a citizen of the US.

He does though want to be GM of Team Canada because that will help develop his future career as a future NHL general manager. Steve Yzerman took the job for the advancement of Steve Yzerman, and not to help represent Canada internationally.

Some will automatically accuse me of being anti American with these statements. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States of America is a great country, which I greatly respect. And I particularily agree with their policy that you can only hold one citizenship at a time - unlike our stupid policy which allows dual citizenship.

Do you think that if Kobe Bryant publicly renounced his US citizenship and became a Canadian citizen, that the Americans would invite him to be the captain of the US Olympic basketball team?

Whether it be Yzerman or Conrad Black, once you willingly choose to become a citizen of another country, you no longer deserve to hold a senior Canadian position.

Matt D makes excellent points in his comments. If people in english Canada simply took this seriously and said these comments were unacceptable and have no place in hockey - but that Doan did not say them, that it was Nagy, - all of this would have quickly died. However, the english media is seen as defending the statements as well as Doan - just as you have defended them by saying that "f--king French" is not racist.

Even tonight during the Vancouver game McLean belittled the whole thing in defending Doan. Yes, defend Doan but condemn the behaviour of whoever said it in the strongest terms. The phrase "f king French" has NO PLACE IN CANADIAN SOCIETY.

At 12:35 a.m., May 04, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I had said you held an extreme point of view, and I certainly respect your right to express it here (or anywhere else for that matter).

But I think we're going to have to agree to disagree. Is the phraseology used regrettable? To be sure — and you wouldn't catch me every saying (or thinking) something of the like. But should it, in the context of a throwaway line spewed in a hockey game two years ago, be debated in the House of Commons?

I don't think so — and neither do the wide majority of people who have weighed in on this subject across the country.

At 1:10 a.m., May 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think that if Kobe Bryant publicly renounced his US citizenship and became a Canadian citizen, that the Americans would invite him to be the captain of the US Olympic basketball team?

If it would improve the chances of winning, they would in a heartbeat. No doubt about it: if winning is the ultimate goal, every other consideration is a distant second.

At 2:05 a.m., May 04, 2007, Anonymous ken said...

I'm just relieved that Canada has solved unemployment, ended war, and cured cancer so that we can concentrate on this issue.

If Doan did say that, then he's an idiot. However, neither can I support these politicians who exploit it for their own gain. Let Doan's harshest punishment come from his peers (French, English and European players alike), and by "punish" I mean shunning and banishing, not Bertuzzi-ing.

For the record, I'm half-French, half-English, and when playing hockey I've been called both a "fucking frog" and a "fucking cake" -- sometimes in the same game -- as well as having countless opponents who claimed to have "banged" my mom.

Consider the source.

At 2:11 a.m., May 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People in English Canada ARE racist, and DO saw nasty things about French people, all the time.

Get freakin' real. I spent a number of years living in Quebec, playing hockey in places like Shawinigan and Laval. I was often the token English. Except I wan't English" I was "Squarehead" "Fucking English" or anyhting similair. It wasn't racism, it was people insulting other people. If you all want to spend time being victims the rest of your lives, fell free, no skin of my H'english squarehead nose.

This is what you wan to waste time on? Gert a life.


At 9:03 a.m., May 04, 2007, Anonymous Matt D said...

It wasn't racism, it was people insulting other people.
Uh, can't insulting people be racist?

This is what you wan to waste time on? Gert a life.
I'm not the one posting in the comments at 2:00 am.

At 10:13 a.m., May 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some clarification - Luongo was born in Quebec, but is not French Canadien. His parents are italian immigrants.

Yzerman like Gretzky, Lemieux and Bourque has US citizenship. That is not the same as renouncing your Canadian citizenship. My wife can attest to that. Then again Janet Gretzky rooted against the US in Salt Lake. She's an American, like her children, but there was no outcry.

I lived in Montreal and heard "square head", "stupid american", "F**king Italians" etc for five years and this was from my friends! If you believe that only one ethnic group is racist against another you are sadly mistaken or delusional. There is just a different level of offence taken depending on your sensitivity.

Nine francophones turned down Yzerman and none of us know why. It is pointless to speculate. IF they came out a made a statement saying they would not play for Team Canada if Doan were given the "C", then we would have something to talk about. Several of those players have represented Canada in the past as well, so let's not make this a "French" conspiracy or act as if Francophones are any less inclined to represent their country.

At 10:21 a.m., May 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And I particularily agree with their policy that you can only hold one citizenship at a time - unlike our stupid policy which allows dual citizenship"

The US only recognizes US citizenship it does not force you to give up your Canadian citizenship. Canada recognizes both and you are treated as a Canadian citizen wherever you may live. You don't get your US citizenship and then burn the Canadian flag to show you no longer have any allegience to the country.

At 10:57 a.m., May 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, can't insulting people be racist?

Sure it can. If you are the type who wants to be a victim, someone serving you at Starbucks and squinting their eyes can be racist. I have no idea if you've played high level sports - even if you haven't, it doesn't disqualify you from the discussion, of course. But my experience is that emotions run high. Things get said in the course of a hockey game (insert sport of choice) that are not indicative of racism, but are merely emotional reactions to stress and excitement. I have no doubt that there are racists in the NHL, somewhere. But if we take every emotional reaction in a competitive atmosphere to be racism, we're lost. Again, to me it's a matter of whether you want to be a victim. I choose no.

I'm not the one posting in the comments at 2:00 am.

Contrary to popular belief, the entire world doesn't operate in the Eastern Time Zone. Gotta go. I have a tee off time.


At 12:51 p.m., May 04, 2007, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

Some people would do well to rent the episode in the second season of Rescue Me on DVD, where Laura files a harassment complaint and they all have to take sensitivity training from a nitwit in a classroom. It quickly descends into an epithet-fest where the boys lament that other ethnicities get more insulting nicknames than their own. Like being slurred was an honour. After they watch a video purporting to show how some cracker in a suit learns to stop insulting his black co-worker or his Korean grocer, Dennis Leary's character stands up in disgust and says, "If I refuse to go into a burning building to save some black chick's fat ass, then you can call me a racist. But until then, I'm going out for a smoke."

At 3:06 p.m., May 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is not a racial issue until Al Sharpton says it is!!!!

At 4:43 p.m., May 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm gonna go a little off the topic but reading these comments I think this whole issue Robert has brought up with Yzerman being a supposed traitor, denying his Canadian allegiance is absolutely garbage.

First of all, did you ever account for the fact that he's played in Detroit since 1984 and in that time he's probably lived and raised family there, all of whom are probably US citizens. I know many immigrants who have come to Canada and have got a Canadian citizenship but it doesn't mean that they aren't proud of where they came from, they moved here because in some situations there was a chance for a better opportunity be it for family or career reasons. Likewise it should be the same if Yzerman had applied for his US citizenship. The US may not recognize his dual citizenship but I'm sure he could care less. I could be wrong but I feel citizenship is more just about easing the democratic process allowing you more rights such as being able to vote for example.

As it was brought up before, none of this means that he is going to be burning the Canadian flag anytime soon to prove his allegiance to the US. If that were so, why would he choose to represent Canada through all those years that he was living in America, why would he go to the Olympics in 2002 and play on a bum knee just to win a gold medal for the country that he was born and raised in?

I would have more of an issue if Canada were to hire someone like Brett Hull to represent them. A player who was born and raised in Canada and just because he didn't make the cut the first time he tried out for the Canadian Olympic team, he heads for the American Olympic team. If anything that's more of a denouncing of their citizenship than what Yzerman did. To be fair Hull had dual citizenship from his mother being an American but he was still born, raised and trained in Canada.


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