Montreal Canadiens are no federalist tool: owner
Published Thursday, September 16, 2010 4:18PM EDT
Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson is brushing off a complaint that his team has become a federalist propaganda tool.
"I can tell you we don't talk about politics in the dressing room," he told reporters on Thursday. "We are in the hockey business and not into politics."
Molson was responding to comments by Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois, who said the team no longer reflects the province's francophone make-up and is being used to promote federalism.
Marois complained that the team has very few Quebecois players remaining for her to cheer on.
PQ language critic Pierre Curzi has gone further by stating recently that the team, once nicknamed the Flying Frenchmen, is plotting to stifle Quebec separatism by excluding francophone players.
The province's English media ridiculed Curzi for making that statement, attributing the Habs' roster to economics, new NHL draft rules and local players who are increasingly choosing to play outside the province.
One local columnist joked that Curzi has "his toque screwed on too tight."
Marois said she doesn't agree the team is intentionally excluding francophones, but she defended Curzi and said that the media focus on his comments is tantamount to "Quebec-bashing."
Four of the Habs' 22 players are French-speaking, a number that Canadiens president Pierre Boivin said "will always be questioned."
"There's no magic number," he told CTV News during the team's annual golf tournament. "What matters to us that we know that we're doing our job in identifying Quebec talent, in being better than other teams in mapping out stars that come from this province, and trying to make them fit into our medium- to long-term plan."
Over the years, many local commenters have pushed for the Canadiens to pay more attention to their role as a cultural institution, urging former team captain Saku Koivu to learn French, for instance.
The Molson family bought the Habs from American owners last year.
The Prime Minister's Office said Thursday afternoon that the PQ's accusations are off base.
In a statement, the PMO said that the team is one of the rare Quebec institutions that can bring together the entire province.
With a report from CTV Montreal's Derek Conlon and files from The Canadian Press