Hockey Canada's French-name policy criticized by Quebec-based politicians

Hockey Canada was widely criticized Wednesday after a news report indicated a public address announcer at the Winter Olympics was told by the national governing body to stop using French pronunciations for the names of some Canadian players.

Hockey Canada says players' names should be pronounced the way players say them

Hockey Canada said Tuesday it wants announcers at Olympics to respect anglophone pronunciation of names that appear French. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Hockey Canada was widely criticized Wednesday after a news report indicated a public address announcer at the Winter Olympics was told by the national governing body to stop using French pronunciations for the names of some Canadian players.

Federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said she was "extremely surprised" by Hockey Canada's position, while Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard called it "deplorable" and "ridiculous."

A story in Le Journal de Montréal said Sébastien Goulet, the French-speaking PA announcer at the Gangneung arena at the Winter Games, was told by a Hockey Canada official to stop using French pronunciations for Team Canada players Derek Roy, Rene Bourque and Marc-André Gragnani.

On Tuesday, Hockey Canada responded to the article with a statement saying player names like Roy and Bourque should be pronounced the way they say it them themselves, rather than using the French pronunciations. Roy and Bourque are common names in Quebec.

Roy, of Rockland, Ont., pronounces his family name in English, as does Bourque, of Lac La Biche, Alta. It was unclear what issue the organization had with Gragnani, of Île-Bizard, Que., who says his name the Latin way — not pronouncing the second G.

Gragnani told the Journal he never asked for his name to be anglicized but didn't want to dwell on it because he was preparing for an upcoming game.

Heritage Canada 'on the file'

Joly said her office was "on the file" and would work with the office of Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan.

She said Hockey Canada's decision was "highly questionable" and added that "we always have to affirm the importance of the French language."

Couillard said, "as francophones, we need to object to this and to protest this strongly."

"I am waiting for Hockey Canada to rectify the situation immediately. It just doesn't make any sense." 

Pascal Bérubé, a Parti Québécois member of the legislature, said he was outraged.

Federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said she was "extremely surprised" by Hockey Canada's position said her office was "on the file." (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"It's insulting," he said. "It's a lack of respect. Especially as French is an official language at the Olympics."

Hockey Canada's statement also said the organization "respects all players, their background and their culture and makes best efforts to ensure that player names are pronounced as the player desires."

"At international events Hockey Canada provides a pronunciation guide based on how players pronounce their names to both broadcast media and the game operations personnel at the venues. The pronunciations are on occasion reviewed with individuals when requested or required."

Goulet does hockey play-by-play on TVA Sports television in Quebec and is the back-up PA announcer to Michel Lacroix at Montreal Canadiens home games. He has been an announcer at three previous Olympics as well as world junior championships and other events.

Hockey announcers from Montreal have been hired for Winter Games since 1998 in Nagano, Japan, mainly because they can speak in the International Olympic Committee's two official languages, English and French, while a second announcer handles the local language.

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