At issue is an alleged derogatory remark by Doan toward a French-Canadian referee during a game in 2005.
The Phoenix Coyotes forward has denied making a slur and was cleared by the NHL – but almost two years later a referee still insists Doan called him a “F-g Frenchman.”
On Tuesday, all parties supported a Bloc Quebecois motion that demands officials from Hockey Canada and Sport Canada appear before the House of Commons’ Official Languages Committee.
A Conservative MP on the committee who once worked for the National Hockey League Players’ Association – Michael Chong – defended the committee decision.
He said the public appearance would allow Hockey Canada to tell its side of the story after having been bashed in Parliament over the Doan captaincy.
He dismissed the suggestion that politicians are sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong, saying Team Canada is not like the NHL because it receives federal funding.
“It’s not in the business of government to involve itself in professional hockey matters. But what we’re talking about is amateur hockey,” said Chong, who was an information officer with the NHLPA.
“We’re talking about Team Canada. We’re talking about an organization that receives millions of dollars a year in government money – in public funds.
“They are accountable, in part, to the government of Canada.”
Chong – who until last fall was the Tory sports minister – said Sport Canada receives $150 million in annual funding and Hockey Canada gets over $1 million.
New Democrats say the controversy is making it difficult to feel much excitement about the world championships. NDP Leader Jack Layton said Canadian officials could have avoided that by picking another captain.
“It’s taking away from the enthusiasm that everybody wants to have,” Layton said.
“We’ve got fabulous hockey players there. We want them playing at their best, not having to think about something else and it’s unfortunate that that wasn’t on the minds of the decision makers at the time.”
The two federally funded – but arm’s-length – bodies are being asked to appear before the committee on Thursday. The committee voted 12-0 to demand their appearance.
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe noted that Sport Canada’s mission is described as strengthening sports’ contribution to the national identity, culture and society.
“Sports Canada has certain objectives – and that includes reflecting what they call the Canadian reality,” Duceppe said.
“(The government) has just cut lots of money from community groups under the pretext that they didn’t share the government’s priorities.
“Hockey Canada receives (public) money, right? We have a right to ask questions.”
He said there would have been a greater outcry if an athlete had made derogatory remarks against blacks, aboriginals or Jews.
A Liberal MP agreed.
“We (francophones) have a right to be respected,” said Quebec MP Marcel Proulx.
“Try imagining for two seconds that an NHL player would say something like that about an anglophone, or anyone else.
“I’m sure Hockey Canada and the Canadian government would demand an explanation. Why not for francophones?”
Doan again denied making a cultural slur Tuesday, saying he takes pride in being a role model and would never have made the comments attricuted to him.
He has also defended his reputation by launching a $250,000 lawsuit against Denis Coderre, a Liberal MP who criticized him. Coderre has counter-sued.
But 15 months after the alleged incident, an NHL referee is quoted in court documents insisting the event did occur.
The comments came in a March 2007 statement from NHL linesman Michel Cormier, who testified in Coderre’s counter-suit.
He says that the events occurred in a game between the Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens where – for the first time in NHL history – all four referees were francophones.
According to the referee’s report tabled after the game, Cormier skated to the Coyotes bench at the end of the second period to have a word with assistant coach Rick Tocchet.
“(I) let him know that I would no (sic) tolerate any racial comments like, ‘You F- French,’ from 17 Ladislav Nagy or any odder (sic) players.”
He then described an incident with Doan toward the end of the game. Cormier stuck by his version of the events in the 2007 court statement.
“While skating alongside me while I was headed toward my room, that’s when (Doan) said the words, ‘F-g Frenchman, did a good job,’ and he skated away,” Cormier said.
“(We were) side by side.”
Hockey Canada had no immediate reaction.