Many Quebeckers want Saku Koivu (photo) to know how to speak French to our media. After all, he is the Montreal Canadiens' captain. Are some Quebeckers asking too much? Definitely, yes.
Historically speaking, most captains in the Habs' history knew how to speak French. Nonetheless, it's not that hard to understand why many Quebeckers are making such a fuss over Koivu's hesitation to speak French before the eyes of Quebecker journalists. After all, he's not the first captain in the franchise's history who couldn't speak French!
However, Quebeckers' desire to see the Montreal Canadiens' captain (whoever it is) speaks French is not quite recent. Indeed, back in the time when Mike Keane was the captain, that is in 1995, he once said that having a good command of the French language is not important at all. What a harsh comment! That probably explains why Keane got replaced in the same year by Pierre Turgeon.
On another note, Bob Gainey, the current general-manager of the franchise, learnt French when he was the team's captain from 1981 to 1989.
Still, far be it from me the idea to say that learning French is unimportant if you're the Habs' captain. In fact, learning French should only be a choice. Moreover, it's pointless to beg a player to learn French when we know that any given player could depart for another team for a plethora of reasons. Make a crisis if you think that the player doesn't play well. That's it. That's all.
Whoever has the "C" letter sewn on his jersey should know that the only thing that matters is his contribution to the team on and, to a lesser extent, off the ice. Obviously, I viscerally think that being able to speak French is not necessarily a guarantee to the Montreal Canadiens' fans that you can lead the team to the playoffs.
For instance, Pierre Dagenais left the Canadiens in 2006 to make a career in Europe. Remember that despite his big shots, he wasn't extremely useful to the Habs if you consider his lack of consistency. Secondly, Mike Ribeiro speaks French, but after one terrific 65-points season in 2003-2004, he was sent to Dallas. Besides, even though Ribeiro was born in Montreal, many white French Quebeckers considered him not as a Quebecker, but as a... Portuguese.
As for Guillaume Latendresse, despite the expectations that we've been seeing for two years, he hasn't been really impressive with his three points after ten games. Furthermore, don't forget that Guy Carbonneau, the Montreal Canadiens' head coach, also said that there are some matches in which Latendresse doesn't manage to shoot at the goal.
As fans, if we were to ask all captains of the Canadiens to speak French, we would certainly deprive our team from the possibility to get outstanding players (who don't necessarily speak French). Needless to remind you that the Montreal Canadiens already has the difficulty to get Quebecker players...
All in all, even though Saku Koivu doesn't speak French, does it mean that he should be traded? The fact is that Koivu is an useful player to the team and as long as he does his job correctly, there's no reason to complain. Besides, learning French should be his choice. Period.
Update (11:10 PM): For those who don't know, Saku Koivu apparently did an effort to speak French at the Bell Centre. Unfortunately, I didn't see it on TV since I don't have the cable.