French-language protesters rally outside Bell Centre
MONTREAL - French-language demonstrators were on the offensive Saturday night, rallying with Quebec flags outside the Bell Centre.
The two-hour demo prior to the Canadiens home game garnered about 300 protesters, defiantly against the hiring the Habs new Anglophone coach, Randy Cunneyworth.
Cunneyworth, who was formerly the team's assistant coach, has made headlines since he was hired on Dec. 17 because of his inability to speak the language of the majority of Montrealers.
"The announcement of a unilingual Anglophone coach is the straw that broke the camel's back," said Mouvement Québec français leader Mario Beaulieu in a press statement.
"The leaders of the Montreal Canadiens do not respect the status of French as a common language in Quebec. The background music broadcast at the Bell Centre is in English. All announcements made on the microphone are fully bilingual. There are only two or three French players on the team. And this head coach does not speak a word of French -- not even, "Hello." The hockey team and (Bell Centre) are, however, two companies that are subject to Bill 101, which made French the only common language in Quebec. "
Some hockey fans heading into the game said they did not support the protest, arguing that the language of the coach was irrelevant as long as he was capable of winning games.
As for Cunneyworth, the Ontario native has said he is working on learning French and hopes that significant strides will be made by the time the decision is made on who will be behind the bench next season.