About the Canadiens' roster makeup, some are generally dismissive of having francos on the team as nothing more than pandering to a few journalists’ need to ask a few meaningless questions is off the mark. That familiar refrain usually ends with a mention that the reporters all speak English anyway and can translate the answers into French, so why bother.
That is missing the point. The issue is that we need our team to be reflective of the fan base. The little kiddies need to recognize themselves on the team. If they hear David Desharnais or Mathieu Darche speaking to them directly, either by answering Chantal’s questions, or at a Caravane event in the summer, there is a much stronger connection created, a real bond. “Wow, Mathieu is so big, and he looks like my cousin François!”
Unfortunately, a lot of English speakers may not understand this, as there are few opportunities for them to experience it. A unilingual French-Canadian kid, immersed as he is in North America and English culture, is faced with that daily, when he can’t understand what Lil Wayne is singing about, or what Alex Galchenyuk is thinking, or what the people are yelling at each other on the “Walking Dead”. There are cheats, and ways around this, and most kids today eventually learn enough English to get by, but as a five or eight year old, it’s huge to be able to relate directly with your heroes and your team. For me, hearing Ken Dryden and Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey make an effort to speak to me in interviews on “La Soirée du Hockey” was very important. I could always get the thoughts of Réjean Houle or Jacques Lemaire or Claude Larose, but it was neat to see Steve Shutt try so darn hard to talk to me, helped along by Lionel Duval.
So separate from the debate over the icetime and line combinations of David Desharnais and Daniel Brière, I think we need to understand that having some local boys on the team is a strategic advantage and an important factor to consider when building long-term. Instead of having a generation of kids like Vincent Lecavalier, who grew up unimpressed with the Canadiens and was kind of a Red Wings fan, and later didn’t place much import on the opportunity to sign here, we need to develop a close bond with our boys, and have them jump through hoops for a chance to play on the team of P.K. Subban and Charles Hudon.