Hockey Canada objects to French pronunciation of players' names

The French-speaking public address announcer for hockey games at the Winter Olympics was at the centre of a spat this week over the pronunciation of some Canadian players names.

Want announcers to respect players' preference for anglophone version of names such as Roy, Bourque

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

By Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

The French-speaking public address announcer for hockey games at the Winter Olympics was at the centre of a spat this week over the pronunciation of some Canadian players names.

Hockey Canada issued a statement Tuesday saying that player names like Derek Roy and Rene Bourque should be pronounced the way they say them themselves, rather than using the French pronunciations. Roy and Bourque are common names in Quebec.

"Hockey Canada respects all players, their background and their culture and makes best efforts to ensure that player names are pronounced as the player desires," the statement said, adding a link to a video of each player stating his name, home town and professional team affiliation.

"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."

The statement was in response to a story in Le Journal de Montreal that Sebastien Goulet, the PA announcer at the Gangneung arena at the Winter Games, was told by a Hockey Canada official to stop using French pronunciations for Roy, Bourque and Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Language matters

Roy, of Rockland, Ont., pronounces his family name in English, as does Bourque, of Lac La Biche, Alta. It was unclear what issue they had with Gragnani, of Ile-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 Wednesday's quarter-final against Finland.

Hockey Canada, which said there would be no further comment from players or management on the issue, did not clarify if the request came from the players, upper management or just from the official who reportedly approached Goulet — hockey operations manager Bayne Pettinger.

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.

Lacroix said it is routine that francophone names are pronounced in French for the mostly French-speaking fans at the Bell Centre unless they ask otherwise.

When he played for the Canadiens from 2011 to 2015, Bourque's name was always announced in French and he never complained, said Lacroix. It was the same for Roy when he visited the Bell Centre.

He said Goulet just spoke the names as he usually did.

'Mind your business'

"If I was in Sebastien Goulet's place and a guy from Hockey Canada showed up and said 'this is how you pronounce the names,' I'd say mind your own business," said Lacroix.

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.

Lacroix said that starting in 1998, although it wasn't official IOC policy, he checked with each team to get proper pronunciations of players' names and did his best to say them as they would be voiced in their own country.

He has since become known for pronouncing difficult European names correctly at the Bell Centre, although he will use an anglicized version if the player requests it, as Alex Kovalev and others did, or if the name would be unrecognizable to North American fans.

Three other French-speaking players on the Canadian men's team — Kevin Poulin, Maxim Lapierre and Maxim Noreau — have their names pronounced in French.