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Briere blasted for 'refusing to be a hero'

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07-08-2007, 07:58 PM
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Briere blasted for 'refusing to be a hero'

8-Year, $52-Million Deal; Star Centre Briere Chooses Money Over Canadiens
Allison Hanes, National Post
Published: Saturday, July 07, 2007

Daniel Briere faced a choice last week: $52-million or the chance to play hockey for the storied Montreal Canadiens in his home province for a little bit less.

The free agent star centre took the money, signing an eight-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers --a no brainer in the business of National Hockey League wheeling and dealing.

But some wounded Habs fans went so far as to accuse the French-speaking Gatineau, Que. native, of offending national pride.

One columnist said Briere "missed his date with history" and refused to become a "hero to a people."

"The pride of playing for your gang, for folks who speak the same language as you didn't sway the balance," sports columnist Stephane Laporte wrote in his blog for the daily La Presse. "Are there any more great Quebec players who have the desire to stoke passions, rather than just live a quiet little existence in a suburb of Philadelphia?

"Daniel, you didn't just refuse to be a Canadien, you refused to be a hero."

Fans of the team -- arguably as dedicated as they are critical -- reacted in kind, in hundreds of postings to various sports news sites.

"Message to Daniel Briere," one wrote on a Reseau des Sports forum. "Please buddy, stop taking us for idiots. Don't insult us like that ... You cavalierly used the CH to boost your stock price."

A few went so far as to label him a traitor.

The issue dominated discussion on 110%, a crossfire-style hockey panel on the TQS network -- where half the time expired before commentators even uttered the names of two players the Canadiens did actually sign.

Reaction to the perceived rebuke is the latest in a series of incidents over the last year where language and ethnicity have entered the Habs arena, underscoring the fine line between national identity and hockey in Quebec.

Cancer-surviving Canadiens captain Saku Koivu was questioned about his poor French skills last spring at a press conference called to update a potentially career-ending eye injury. Alex Kovalev was practically run out of town even after denying the substance of an interview with a Russian journalist in which he allegedly criticized the favouritism shown to francophone players in Montreal.

The earlier imbroglios got tongues wagging that intense media scrutiny and notoriously ruthless fans were giving the Canadiens a bad name among players in the league. During the Kovalev affair, Habs legends Yvan Cournoyer and Henri Richard told The Gazette as much--a spectre which was raised again last week.

"If Briere still has any doubts about his decision, this blog will surely convince him he made the right one," danb (presumably just a random hockey aficionado) wrote in response to Mr. Laporte's column. "Montreal fans are manic-depressive. A win and it's the Cup; a loss and we should trade everyone. I understand why talented players avoid Montreal."

Another La Presse columnist, Francois Gagnon, chastized his colleague and his supporters for their rabidness.

Published: Saturday, July 07, 2007

"The more I read of your savage accusations, the more I hear your uncalled-for accusations that Daniel Briere is a traitor, a coward and a wimp ... the more I can see just one conclusion to this matter: You don't deserve Daniel Briere."

Fans and commentators alike had their hearts set on repatriating Mr. Briere, to speak to the local press in French and join a bred-in-Quebec line-up that includes Guillaume Latendresse, Steve Begin and Francis Bouillon. Habs management, too, seemed intent on snagging the high-scoring ex-Buffalo Sabre.

The great Jean Beliveau intervened to try to talk Mr. Briere into donning the Tricolor jersey.
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"Clearly if you send Jean Beliveau to speak to him you are trying to make an appeal to him on the basis, to some degree, of his identity or his origins. Otherwise you wouldn't send Jean Beliveau," said Jack Jedwab, executive-director of the Association for Canadian Studies and a professor of a sports and society class at McGill University.

While hockey controversies can stoke passions in any Canadian city, there is an ethnic dimension to the scene in Quebec that isn't present elsewhere, said Prof. Jedwab. He attributes its latest manifestations to frustration over the team's lacklustre performance in recent years and nostalgia for the glory days when Maurice Richard, Guy Lafleur and Patrick Roy delivered Stanley Cups.

"There's still a lot of nostalgia in Montreal and the nostalgic remember a team that wasn't a multicultural team but was a winning team," said Prof. Jedwab, pointing out the Canadiens haven't won a Cup since 1993 and were shut out of the playoffs this season. "They still want the champion that reflects what the team once was, that carries on that tradition, like Jean Beliveau or Guy Lafleur. There's a certain irony about Jean Beliveau phoning Daniel Briere, because Jean Beliveau reflects the kind of leadership and winning traditions of the Montreal Canadiens that I don't think they'd necessarily recapture by bringing on Daniel Briere. But there's an illusion that they might."

Sports teams go to tremendous lengths to embody civic or national identity as part of a tried-and-true strategy to sell tickets, said Bruce Kidd, dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health at the University of Toronto.

"But today, the players come from all over the place," he said. "These are the contradictions of 21st century capitalist sport."

On 110%, a TQS commentator who grew up with Mr. Briere said his close friend was in a no-win situation.

"If the Canadiens had offered him more (money) everyone would have complained that he wasn't worth that much," said Patrice Belanger.



BleedOrange is offline  
07-08-2007, 08:01 PM
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btw montreal offered him more money! 6 year 7M / year!

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07-08-2007, 08:02 PM
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We have this already under the Briere thread.

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07-08-2007, 08:10 PM
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