October 31, 2010

Discrimination In The NHL: Quebec Hockey Players Sidelined by Bob Sirois

In 2009 former NHL player turned author Bob Sirois made headlines when he released his book Le Québec mis en échec (Quebec Bodychecked). The book, released only in French (available here: Amazon.ca - Chapters) asserts that hockey players from Quebec are being discriminated against by English Canada at the NHL and various national team levels.

Now the book is coming to English bookstores across Canada and beyond with the release of Discrimination in the NHL: Quebec Hockey Players Sideline. It is translated by Jacqueline Snyder. 

Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

The book's allegations made big headlines last year, as many questioned Sirois' analysis and motives. Of course, many of those critics never read the book because of the language barrier. Instead they reacted with the historic divide that plagues Canada. With the book now available in English, hopefully these critics give the book a second chance with an open mind.

Given the historic French-English divide in our country, I can understand that cracking the spine of this book without presumptions is hard. Don't jump to conclusions, give the findings a fare chance.

I will give Sirois credit in that the numbers he presents do suggest that there is something to consider here, especially at the Canadian national team levels. Sometimes I wondered if research could lead to statistics to counter some of Sirois' findings, like Andrew Podnieks tried last year. Sirois' extensive (although often redundent) numbers are presented to further his argument. The critical mind in me asks for a bigger picture look.

While Sirois is critical of the NHL, Hockey Canada and the Montreal Canadiens (for their lack of home-grown content in recent years), I was disappointed that he did not take a critical look at Quebec hockey from the grassroots level up through to the QMJHL. What are the systemic issues needed there to improve? What can the QMJHL do to better improve their graduate list? Perhaps various levels of government should be better investing in Quebec youth hockey in terms of facilities, access and coaching? Do population, birth rates and immigration trends factor into this equation? It is questions like these that Quebec hockey needs to ask itself.

Like I said, try opening this book with an open mind. I am not convinced there is significant discrimination against hockey players from any region in the world, although each region has it's own stereotypes. The fact that the QMJHL is perceived to be lagging behind the OHL, WHL, NCAA and parts of Europe when it comes to developing NHL-ready talent should be Quebec's biggest concern.

That's not racial discrimination but rather systemic failure. But that doesn't grab headlines or sell books, does it?

Quebec hockey needs to take a long hard look at itself and what it can control rather than what they can not. The NHL will take the best players in the world, no matter where they are from. But some locations are better than others when it comes to developing NHL-ready talent, and right now Quebec is not at the top of that list. How can they better attract and produce players is what they really need to be asking.

Here's the specs:
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Baraka Books (Oct 1 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1926824016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1926824017
Here's my review of the French release, Le Québec mis en échec. Despite my last name, I can not speak or read enough French to have given it a proper review.

Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com


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