Tanguay backs Koivu

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

Alex Tanguay is proud to be from Quebec, but the Calgary Flames left winger had some choice words over the latest language flap in his home province.

Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu was criticized by a prominent lawyer, Guy Bertrand, and Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois for not speaking French when introducing his teammates for the home opener.

Tanguay believes the controversy is absurd.

"I know of Pauline Marois and I think she's got bigger things on her plate than talking about Saku Koivu," Tanguay said yesterday. "And if she doesn't, there's serious problems with the government in Quebec.

"For a guy like Saku Koivu, first he had to learn English to go to Montreal, so French would be his third or fourth language. He does speak a little French.

"The media wouldn't leave him alone if he spoke French (fluently) but he does go to charity events and speaks French. And he's been great to the community in Montreal, so I don't know what the problem is there.

"I don't see any problem."

Koivu, who has overcome cancer and a serious eye injury, has raised money for medical equipment for cancer treatment and regularly visits patients in hospitals.

The Canadiens captain introduced his teammates in English as part of a videotaped pre-game ceremony.

Bertrand spoke out about it in a provincial commission, and Marois took it further, saying the Canadiens franchise should insist on French courses for its players.

Koivu, in his 12th NHL season, speaks Finnish, Swedish and English, and some French.

"The last time I was in Montreal, most restaurants are asking you in English to order your meal, so I don't think Saku Koivu is having any problems getting by in English in Montreal," Tanguay said.

"Obviously, the French media in Montreal would like to talk to him in French, but it's hard. I remember my first few months -- few years -- in Halifax, I had a hard time speaking English and I was trying to avoid it as much as possible because you feel a little embarrassed.

"If Saku speaks French, it's his third or fourth language and if he does speak French, maybe he doesn't want to do it in public."

Besides, imagine how it would go if Koivu phrased something in French wrongly.

"Oh, they'd roll with it," Tanguay said with a laugh. "And I'm sure he doesn't want any misconception of his phrase or whatever he's saying. There's already misconception with perfect English, so I couldn't imagine with average French."

Last night, Koivu spoke a few words in a pre-recorded feature shown before a game against Philadelphia at the Bell Centre.

A surprised crowd cheered as Koivu said "ici Saku Koivu, voici mon equipe" (Saku Koivu here, this is my team) before reading out the Canadiens lineup in a mix of English and French on the video scoreboard.


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