MONTREAL--Ah, the joys and intriguing layers of post-season hockey in Montreal never disappoint.
It's an experience to be savoured, something like poppy-seed hamantaschen, a delicacy to which I was introduced yesterday by TV colleague Michael Farber as we wandered across to the Bell Centre to chat with the forlorn Boston Bruins.
Yesterday, meanwhile, there were reminders that while the IOC and human rights activists can argue endlessly whether sport and politics should be separate, there is never any debate here over whether language and hockey in Quebec should mix.
They do, and often.
Case in point: the disposal of the Maple Leafs has forced the CBC to re-route its broadcast map for the playoffs, turning to Les Habitants to lure viewers. But after largely ignoring Montreal for years, thus forcing the Anglophone citizenry to watch Canadiens games en français most every Saturday night, the CBC is hardly being welcomed with open arms. Indeed, the arrival of Bob Cole and Co. has touched off a simmering debate over whether English Montrealers should boycott the CBC broadcasts and instead watch Pierre Houde and friends on RDS. This might come as a surprise to folks outside Quebec, who might have assumed CBC English regional broadcasts would be more available to Montreal fans.
Montreal Gazette columnist Bill Brownstein denounced the CBC for turning to the Habs as a last resort, and encouraged locals to stick with RDS and Houde, who he credited with helping the cause of bilingualism by helping anglo Montrealers learn to speak better French through his Canadiens' broadcasts.
Yesterday, the paper carried two letters to the editor, one vowing not to watch the CBC broadcasts and instead urging Montreal viewers to stick with RDS.
So, there's controversy over the hockey broadcasts, and controversy over the mayor's edict that local firemen should not paint Canadiens' colors in their fire hall as an expression of support for the local hockey squad.
Hockey, politics and language all mixed in, and all after just one playoff game.