A Tale of Two Cities
We Canadians take our hockey seriously. And why not? It is, after all, our game and no other country can match us over the long haul in international competitions. Hockey for us is a source of pride and many of us follow our favourite teams with the fervour you would expect from a religious devotee.
The two most storied Canadian franchises in the National Hockey League (NHL) are, without a doubt, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs and neither team has distinguished itself of late. The Maple Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup, the symbol of hockey supremacy, in more than 40 years, while the Montreal Canadiens have been mired in mediocrity for a good 15 years.
Against this backdrop, last week the NHL held its draft of junior-aged players. It is from this pool of young and unpolished talent that the Maple Leafs and Canadiens trust will emerge the future star player to lead them out of the wilderness. What is interesting to note here is the type of individual each team selected as their first choice, to hopefully one day become the face of the franchise.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, with their first pick, chose 18 year old Nazem Kadri a Lebanese Canadian who will be only the second Muslim to play in the NHL. He is a fitting choice to represent the franchise. Toronto is the hub of Canadian immigrants and home to 250,000 Muslims. Half of the people who live in the Toronto area were born outside of Canada and within the next few years half of the city’s population will be “visible minorities” – at which time, by the way, we hopefully will no longer have any use for this somewhat “less than Canadian” description, for they will from that point forward be the visible majority.
With their first choice, the Montreal Canadiens selected Louis Leblanc, a French-Canadian Montreal native. The Canadiens had not chosen a French-Canadian as their first pick in more than ten years and the French media in Montreal and throughout the Province of Quebec have been voicing displeasure at this apparent lack of sensitivity. The Canadiens play before an audience that has mixed feelings about immigration and their own future. A large chunk of the Quebec population has genuine concerns about their cultural and linguistic survival. In some ways it’s more comforting to look back at the glory days of the “Flying Frenchman” – when the likes of Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur led the way to one championship after another.
Two teams representing two cities with different views on Canada’s future.