MONTREAL – Bob Sirois is wading into an old and unresolved debate dating from the 1955 Rocket Richard Riot – whether there’s bias against French-Canadian players in the NHL.
The former right-winger argues in a new book, “Le Quebec mis en echec: la discrimination envers les Quebecois dans le LNH” (Quebec bodychecked: discrimination against Quebecers in the NHL), that prejudice is alive and well in the league.
The publishers claim the book, to be launched Tuesday, presents the most substantive case ever released on the difficulties faced by French-Canadian hockey players.
But the former Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals player doesn’t feed the controversy with oft-used anecdotes – the sanctions against the Maurice (Rocket) Richard by then NHL president Clarence Campbell, Mario Lemieux refusing to play for the Canadian Junior Team and alleged anti-French slurs by Shane Doan.
Sirois instead attempts to demonstrate with stats and numbers that the hockey league’s managers don’t hold French-Canadian players in as high esteem as their anglophone peers.
But the book doesn’t shy away from debate either – its cover shows a hockey playing frog facing down a bullish competitor.
Sirois claims the only remedy for the alleged systematic discrimination would be to offer francophone players greater visibility through their own leagues.
The book is written more for the serious hockey buff than the casual reader, the bulk of its 288 pages filled with tables of stats and numbers that Sirois uses to back up his argument.
He painstakingly lays out the list of Quebec players who were drafted into the NHL or who played for the league over the last 40 years.
But Sirois doesn’t only attack the NHL.
He adds that few players from Quebec were able to “pierce” the lineup for the Canadian Junior team.
Sirois also debunks the myth that Quebec players are smaller than their anglophone counterparts and argues the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League offers a game as exciting as any across Canada.
“Recognizing discrimination and highlighting its source are very important steps for us all, because discrimination is very present in the English-Canadian national hockey league,” he writes in the book’s final paragraph.