It's been a bit of a joke online, but our collaboration with La Brigade confirms what we've all known: the Ottawa Senators are the official francophone team of the NHL.
"But Ross," I hear you say, "there's a team literally called a French name: the Canadiens de Montréal." Well, first, almost everyone would call them the Montreal Canadiens, with a hefty anglophone accent. Also, you can just as easily call the Sens « les Sénateurs d'Ottawa » and that point becomes moot (« moute »). So let's dig into some deeper stats.
First of all, demographics. You can't argue with stats, after all. The Sens currently boast five francophone roster players: Derick Brassard, Julien Gauthier, Claude Giroux, Mathieu Joseph, and Thomas Chabot. The Habs list six players from Québec on their roster, but two of those are recent call-ups (Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Alex Belzile) all part of a concerted effort to push the notion that they're the most francophone. Not to mention, Michael Matheson hardly sounds French-Canadian. And Rafael Harvey-Pinard? Is he trying to represent the three languages of the USMCA just in his name? Sure, the Habs have Martin St.-Louis behind the bench, but the Sens have Pierre Dorion as GM. We'll use the "de" in Alex DeBrincat's name as a tie-breaker, and give this to the Sens.
But wait! Demographics aren't just about the team, they're also about the city. According to recent census data, 40% of people in Ottawa speak French, which isn't that different from the 65% of Montreal which is francophone, if we assume a margin of error 0f 15% (for no particular reason)—and ignore that I'm comparing two very different stats. (Ottawa is 17% francophone, for the record.) But still, we can say that Ottawa is a fairly bilingual city. And what's more, whatever Québec likes to argue, French is hardly just their thing. There are franco-communautés across Canada. For example, Giroux is from Hearst, Ontario, a town which is 94% francophone. There are more than 1 million francophone Canadians from non-Québec towns. Focusing on the Habs erases the presence of Acadians, Brayons, Fransaskois, and the Franco-Ontarians, -Albertans, -Columbians, -Manitobans, -Newfoundlanders, -Yukonnais, -Ténois, and -Nunavois of this country.
Another important question is, who better embodies the esprit of French Canadians? Canadian francophones have always been fiercely defensive of their right to protect their interests. Francophones regularly feel neglected, the undesirable raisins in the anglo-dominant cookie that is Canada. They feel they are often an afterthought when it comes to coverage and policy. Now, who does this sound more like: the Original-Six team with a storied history and the undying appreciation of league management, or the perpetual underdog team fighting for recognition while being geographically sandwiched between the league's two biggest franchises? The Sens will always live under the threat, realistic or not, of relocation from Ottawa; Québec will always live under the threat, realistic or not, of separation from Canada. In this way, Ottawa better represents the spirt of both Québec and French-Canadians at large better than the Habs.
It's funny that the Québec-based team has the name "Canadiens", which kind of sounds like an insult to the Québécois legacy. It's basically spitting in the face of the uniqueness felt by the province they're in. Meanwhile, les Sénateurs can easily represent everyone. After all, every province and territory sends at least one senator to Ottawa. Every Canadian, including the francophones, are represented in the Canadian Senate. There have been standing committees in the Senate related to the continued thriving of the French language in Canada. Senate debates are always permitted to be in French. Bills must be assented to and passed in both French and English. While the name Canadiens represents the assimilation of cultures into one monolithic English-speaking mass, Senators represents the vocalization and protection of regional interests across the country, including (and sometimes especially) francophones.
So there you have it, the undeniable case as to why the Sens are Canada's francophone team. Bringing French-language coverage to Silver Seven is just the next way to drive home this inarguable point. Go Sens Go ! (mais en français)