Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Michel Thérrien is not a great public speaker, in English or French

I agree with those who point out that making fun of a coach for his accent and the way he speaks is pretty low-brow. Just as I’d respect the hell out of Marc Crawford for his efforts to learn a second language and be able to converse in it, Michel Thérrien should have everyone’s respect for his efforts to live and work in a world where he has to function using a second language. All of you who mock him, please take a look in the mirror and question whether you are fluently bilingual. In any case, we should all please refrain from taking cheap shots.
Having said that, Mr. Thérrien isn’t the most eloquent speaker in either language, English or French, he brings to mind the classic line about Jean Chrétien, how he was our first Prime Minister to have two second languages, English AND French. He could mangle both languages at the drop of a hat.
Michel Thérrien isn’t the most polished of speakers, even in French, and even though he works as a broadcaster on RDS. His analysis on RDS sometimes abrades the eardrums, but he does provide some insight and is often the calm voice of reason, who pulls in the other direction when a Michel Bergeron gets overly excited. He often cautioned this season, in response to criticisms of Andrei Kostitsyn or Yannick Weber, that getting rid of players was the easiest thing for a team to do. The hard part is to find, and then coach and develop players, he would repeat.
We have to look past his inelegant oratory and understand that he, much like Mr. Chrétien, has skills beyond being a polished public speaker. In fact, Mr. Chrétien’s popularity depended in large part on his commoner’s touch, he was ‘le p’tit gars de Shawinigan’, who could relate with people at an ‘épluchette de blé d’inde’ or a hockey tournament, the anti-Mitt Romney, if you will.
I’m strongly in favour of hiring Patrick Roy as our next coach, but if the current brain trust is comfortable with hiring Michel Thérrien, if after multiple face-to-face interviews hockey people with diverse backgrounds such as Marc Bergevin, Rick Dudley, Larry Carrière, and Scott Mellanby think he is the best candidate available and are willing to stake their reputation and possibly their jobs on it, then I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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