Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Saying all the right things

New Hab Scott Gomez was talking to reporters today at Maxim Lapierre's golf tournament, and either he's already graduated from the Canadiens media department's school of PR, or he really has a grasp on the types of things you need to say to be loved in Montreal.

When he tells reporters he's taking French lessons and has already been in town a couple of weeks so he can get settled in, fans have to be excited. At the very least, it makes it appear like Gomez genuinely wants this marriage to work after his sojourn in the Big Apple went so sour, so quickly.

He wasn't blind to the constant questioning Saku Koivu received on why he refuses to speak to reporters in French, in fact the whole league knew what Koivu went through here at least once per season. The only thing is now that he's let it out that he's taking French lessons, it won't be very long - say, November? - until he starts getting asked by the Francophone media for sound bites in the language of the majority in Quebec.

Tom Kostopoulos made the mistake of letting it slip that he spoke a bit of French at the team's golf tournament when he first arrived in Montreal, and he was asked to analyze games in French immediately until it became painfully clear to everyone that he was not in a position to do so.

That's exactly why Koivu - who did, in fact, speak some very basic French - didn't want to address the media in his fourth language, because he didn't want to inadvertently say something stupid that would touch off a firestorm. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if the Canadiens media crew told him to steer clear of French interviews until he was certain he had a firm grasp of the language, which was something he never had.

So Gomez has now put himself into a position where he's going to have to back up what he's saying, especially when he cites Larry Robinson as his inspiration for plunging into French lessons. But Robinson also surely told him that all the people want here is to see some effort, and if Gomez can do that he'll become an instant fan favourite.

Gomez also has to know that the reason why he quickly became so despised by Ranger nation will still apply here, that is the massive chuck of salary cap space he's taking up. When you alone represent about 13 per cent of the team's cap room, you had better be productive, and if you're not you're going to hear about it.

But if you can explain yourself in French, it may take some of the sting off a four-game pointless streak.

Whether it's good PR or a sincere desire to fully integrate himself into the culture is irrelevant.


Sliver24 said...

Hmmmmm, somebody wants to be captain...

V said...

Yep, he probably is looking for captaincy.

But still, as someone who learned to speak French through Spanish, it's not hard to get the basics down. I'm looking forward to Gomez's gaffes, which happened often to me when I thought I understood something but didn't. "Carey Price c'est le meilleur arquero!" It's all up to his motivation - I'm sure he can be nearly fluent in French in a year. The accent will be endearing.

As for as Tom K. was concerned, I thought it did wonders for his fan support. And I thought the RDS guys went pretty easy on him in between-period interviews. (And then they'd repeat what he'd already said in French, but faster and more 'correctly', which was funny!)

Anonymous said...

Gomez is probably a bit more worldly than some NHLers, given his multicultural background, and consequently not as likely to be traumatized by the mere fact of French (c.f. Eric Lindros). And he may just have a more easy-going personality than Koivu - he may not be too proud to embarass himself a bit in French.

As for his salary and what happened to Gomez in New York - first of all, he was a playmaker on a team with no scorers. That's a recipe for failure. Secondly, Montreal fans absolutely CANNOT start jeering Gomez. He is untradeable and the team really needs him to bring his 'A' game. If habs fans want to win, they'd better change their abusive bullying ways. Thirdly, all he has to do is produce. If he does, nobody will boo him - at least not for a while...