The politics of language and hockey swirled in a volatile mix on Parliament Hill yesterday as Hockey Canada officials faced MPs intent on turning the persecution of Team Canada captain Shane Doan into points on their polling scoresheets.
With Prime Minister John A. Macdonald and his French Canadian lieutenant George-Etienne Cartier looking down from a reproduction of the 1883 painting The Fathers of Confederation, Hockey Canada chief Bob Nicholson passionately defended Doan against charges that he should not have been put on the team or given the "C" because the Coyotes star faced allegations of uttering a slur against a francophone official.
Nicholson said an NHL investigation found that the slur "F---ing frenchman" was uttered during the December 2005 NHL game, but not by Doan.
"That is why we are here, today, to protect Shane Doan. He is a Canadian that all the information to date that we heard did not say this," Nicholson told MPs on the Commons official languages committee. "We are taking Shane Doan, his wife, his mom and dad, his four kids through an allegation that could have been stated by someone else and this is not right for them."
But Bloc Quebecois MP Luc Malo refused to back down from his attack on Doan and Hockey Canada.
"All of this is upsetting because Hockey Canada took a decision that is unacceptable for Quebeckers," said Malo. "This wasn't something that has been resolved and forgotten. If this was understood then you wouldn't have chosen Shane Doan."
Nicholson, who has known Doan since the player was a teenager, would not waver.
"You should get to know Shane Doan," said Nicholson. "You can talk to all of his teammates that have played with him. He says 'fudge,' a lot if he gets upset. He's a Christian and a person that I am proud to know."
LET TEAM PLAY
The Conservatives, who voted to call Hockey Canada before the committee, did their best to distance themselves from the controversy.
"What the constituents in my riding are saying is they'd like to put the politicians in the penalty box, so Team Canada can put the puck in the net," said Ottawa-area Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre.
But some constituents in Conservative country and Doan's home province would not let them off the hook.
Calgary Conservative MP Art Hanger's constituency office received 12 e-mails and 12 phone calls yesterday morning from constituents criticizing the government for allowing the issue to get to committee. One woman e-mailed saying the Conservatives should stop pandering to Quebec.
"People are lumping the Conservatives and all the parties together," said Calgary Alderman Ric McIver. "They understand what the Bloc wants, but wonder why would any of the parties agree to play into their hands?"