You couldn't have made it any easier for Daniel Briere.
That's right, you, les médias francophones, les politiciens. You, maître Guy Bertrand, cher collègue.
You created a Quebec language debate over a Finn. You did.
In what promised to be an amusing field day for journalists on both ends of the language spectrum for Brière's first game in Montreal since Le Snub, we are left instead with the media's latest case in power point presentation of Brière's thought process as he passed on the opportunity to play for Montreal in July.
In Saku Koivu's judgment, Briere finds validation. He has been spoon fed. You can bet the house he bought in Philadelphia that these thoughts have run through his mind a few times today: "You want to know why I didn't sign here? Because I didn't want to deal with your fabricated somethings out of nothings, that's why. Ce que Saku endure aujourd'hui, je refuse d'intégrer ça à mon travail, d'imposer ça à ma famille, de vivre ça dans mon quotidien. It's not for me."
No argument here, Danny.
It's a nasty subject for an athlete to deal with, and for some reason, in Quebec, it grabs headlines time and time again.
Only in Quebec, perpetually locked between what William Johnson has described as Canada and the illusion of utopia, will this topic take on such life. What are the fans clamouring for, that Koivu pant in broken French during intermission or post-game interviews? Do the fans want to know he's at least trying to learn?
Dans quel cadre devons-nous situer ce débat? Quel irritant sert-il d'identifier à travers cette saga? Que le capitaine du Canadien soit gêné de s'exprimer en français? Plutôt, que la fibre francophone du méga symbole d'appartenance que représente cette équipe s'effrite graduellement dans une ligue nationale devenue de plus en plus hétérogène? Qu'est-ce qui vous dérange vraiment les Québécois. Le moment nous impose de défénir le problème une fois pour tout afin de cerner le malaise. Afin de l'enrayer.
It's confusing and it requires explanations.
Has Quebec's cultural status frailed to the point of inflexion at the mere mention of a hockey player's language skills? Does the true problem not lie with the notion that this need for Quebec to assert itself has become so voracious that the Finish captain of the Montreal Canadiens must be thrown in the mix? Will Quebec feel better about itself if Koivu begins to express himself in French? Isn't that silly rock and roll antics seen at concerts, artists playing to the crowds with their crooked "Comment ça va Montréal!!!"
Koivu in French, in English. Insignificant. Meaningless. It won't enhance Quebecois pride, nor will it dent it. Don't kid yourselves, the language debate in Quebec and the ensuing separation issues have far more serious consequences and more important triggers than Captain K, s'il vous plait.
Why allow it to flow into sports? Why bother the athletes? Why irk the fans? As we have said before on these very pages, is Koivu really paid to win or to conjugate?
Le Québec se trouve en ce jour sur un terrain fertile, en imagination, en réflexion, en avenues potentielles: dans quelle voie faut-il mener ce débat? La problématique est toute simple. Notre sport national, cette équipe se meuvent à l'extérieur des rancunes culturelles.
This doesn't concern hockey, the Montreal Candiens or Saku Koivu. We should all be encouraged to redraw the lines. In the end, all this recurring debate does is spin a furious war of words that leaves the players in a state of bewilderment and the NHL's upcoming free agents watching with an apprehensive eye and an enlarging memory bank to boot come July. Therein lies the formula that makes a Quebecois star a Philadelphia Flyer.