Saturday, December 12, 2009
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me Three Frenchmen, Two sausages and Lubomir Visnovsky.
Our neighbourhood in Sudbury had a couple of French schools. Sudbury is pretty bilingual, Timmins too. Lots of French in Northern Ontario. Not so much in the Soo, which has a large Italian population, but Sudbury definitely has a fair size French community, both in the city and in the outlying towns. Quite a few Italians and a good number of Finns as well, descendants of the loggers and miners who built the North.
So playing hockey growing up there were always plenty of French kids on our clubs. On my atom team the two best players were cousins, Bouthillier and Roy. Our neighbourhood club team all the way through included a big defenceman by the name of Pelletier and a left wing with a nice touch around the net, Pilon. He was also a pussy. Got hurt every single game. Both of these guys were on our bantam team that won the city championship (not as exciting as it should have been for me, more on that another time) along with kids named Legace and Lajeunnesse, our captain. They were all fine players. Legace was a winger who could put the puck in the net, a pure finisher who could do the dirty work in the corners as well. Rick Lajeunnesse was a kid from the government housing, a tough kid who was smoking cigarettes in grade six. He was a hard as nails player, not a huge guy but all muscle and hard sinew, even at fourteen, a guy who charged up and down the wing with abandon, the fiercest player on a team loaded with hard cases and goons. He was also a terrific guy.
My own team now has two French Canadians, Bernard and Lefevbre. Every once in a while they'll start talking to each other in French in the room. It adds a little, hard to explain how. It just seems right to have French guys on your team.
In their short rich history the Edmonton Oilers have employed few French Canadians. The dynasty included some Alberta boys, a few Finnlanders, some kid from Brantford, a couple of guys from the left coast and Kevin Lowe, from Lachute, a guy who played his junior in the Q, but not pur laine by any measure. Indeed the two greatest draft picks from the Q for the Oilers are an Irishman and a Czech.
The little teams that could again employed a lot of Western Canadians, some Americans, a few Ontario boys and a Finn here and there (never enough though ;) ) but French Canadians, like Russians, were few and far between. After Vince Damphousse and Martin Gelinas you'd be hard pressed to name any player of note from Quebec who has played for Edmonton.
The Oilers have had as many impact players named Smith as they have had Quebecois. Count Smyth as a Smith and the Smiths have it.
Bruce McCurdy might correct me but I would bet that the present club, with those three Frenchmen referred to in the song, Deslauriers, Jacques and Pouliot, has more French guys than any other Oiler club in history.
Posted by Black Dog at 6:00 AM