Does hockey have a future in Quebec?


January 16, Press discussed the decline in the number of Quebec goaltenders in the NHL, which can now be counted on the fingers of one hand. But it is not only on the side of the « cerberus » that the rarity is rife. It’s not that different elsewhere on the ice …

Marc Tremblay
Marc Tremblay

In the 60s and 70s, it was not uncommon to see players from here monopolizing the ranking of the best scorers. In 1974-1975, 8 of the top 12 scorers in the NHL spoke the language of Michel Tremblay. Today we have to wait around the 130e rank of the classification to see the 8e hockey player from Quebec. Also in 1974-1975, a grand total of 88 players * out of 501 or 17.6% came from Quebec, against only 45 out of 802 currently or 5.6%, or proportionally three times less.

There are many reasons for this decline. One of them is certainly the decline in the practice of hockey among young people, which is not unrelated to its high costs, but also to the greater diversity of « sports offer » in the XXI.e century.

The reason most often mentioned, however, is the massive influx of European players in recent decades. The Canadian of Montreal (CH) is representative of this trend, he who currently has in his regular roster more players from the Old Continent (five) than players from Quebec (only two).

The CH has always been the engine of Quebec hockey. From the 1950s to the 1990s, it had year in and year out (with a few rare exceptions) more than 50% of players from La Belle Province. It would never have occurred to a Sam Pollock or a Serge Savard to neglect « local talent », as the leaders of the CH now do, which for a long time no longer even had a recruiter in Quebec. .

Victim or main cause?

The question must be asked: is the Canadian the victim of the decline of hockey in Quebec, does it simply echo it or… is it one of the main causes? History offers us here a serious lead to find an answer to this question. The name of the club « Canadian » designated at the beginning of the XXe century (when the club was founded) a French Canadian quite simply. The team, founded in 1909, had been custom-built to give the French Canadians their own team, and the first edition only included players from here.

Questioned by Guy A. Lepage at Everybody talks about it recently on the absence of a Quebec selection during the last draft, the general manager, Marc Bergevin, replied that the last year had not been very good for Quebec hockey. This is what CH managers repeat to us almost every year.

Bergevin’s explanation is a little short … Isn’t it rather the CH which, by renouncing its historic role, accentuates the decline in the practice of hockey among young people in Quebec?

When one of them ends up joining the team, he also exerts only a marginal influence. And insidiously, the French disappears from the locker room. Ask yourself if the Gaineys, Robinson or Dryden, who all spoke our language fluently, would have learned it if they had only had a handful of French-speaking teammates.

Whereas in the past there was a virtuous circle in favor of French and Quebecers within the CH, today there is an ugly vicious circle: there are fewer and fewer players from home in the Canadian who generate less interest. less important for the practice of hockey, and French is less and less the language of our national sport. This is the Hygrade principle in reverse …

All this means that Quebec’s greatest sporting heritage, and one of the most fascinating on the sporting planet, all sports combined, withers. And today we must rightly ask ourselves if there will one day be other Maurice Richard, Guy Lafleur or Patrick Roy to make young Quebecers dream? But beyond these heroes reduced to the role of marketing instrument for the club with blows of « Our bruised arms hold out the torch to you », it will be necessary to wonder if the great tradition of the CH can survive the scarcity and even the virtual disappearance of Quebec hockey players.

Because without the presence of the local accent in the locker room, without this deep cultural roots, without this unique symbiosis between an environment, its fans and its team, how can the tradition, the legend and, above all, the victory be perpetuated? On the answer to this question depends not only the future of our greatest sports team, but that of a sport which has thrilled so many generations of supporters and galvanized an entire people. The question now arises: does hockey have a future in Quebec?

* Visit the QuantHockey website


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