The Montreal Canadiens have faced criticism for the hiring of head coach Randy Cunneyworth (above) to replace Jacques Martin, not so much for the former’s modest resume, but instead for Cunneyworth’s inability to speak French. Though the Habs’ former assistant has promised to take lessons, that’s not enough to quell the furor on the part of Impératif Français, who called Cunnyworth’s hiring, “a bodycheck to Quebec”. From Montreal CTV :

Their spokesman Gilles Rheaume, a veteran of the language wars, called the situation an “anti-French provocation,” and urged the club to fire the Cunneyworth for, “incompetence.”

“Being unable to speak French is a severe handicap for someone in that position. Knowing the French language is a per-requisite for leading the Montreal Canadiens hockey team,” the group wrote in a statement.

The Impératif français group has urged a boycott of Molson products. The team belongs to brothers Geoff Molson, Andrew Molson and Justin Molson. Geoff and Andrew sit on the board of Molson-Coors.

Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste President Mario Beaulieu also condemned the hiring of a unilingual anglo to the head coaching job in Montreal, describing it as an insult and predicting that the team would regret the decision.

Beaulieu noted that, “there are fewer and fewer francophones on the Montreal team,” on what was originally a team dedicated to francophones.

A prominent sports writer summed up one side of the issue, arguing the club failed in its responsibility to protect and promote the French language. “In Quebec, the Canadiens aren’t just a hockey team,” Philippe Cantin wrote in Montreal’s La Presse. “They are also an institution. And like all institutions, they have a responsibility to the community.”