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  • Writer's pictureAlessandro De Luca

The Sick Podcast: The problem with hockey in Quebec.

Former NHLer Enrico Ciccone joins Tony Marinaro to discuss the issues regarding hockey in Quebec.

Last week on the Sick Podcast, host Tony Marinaro was joined by former NHL Player Enrico Ciccone to discuss hockey in Quebec.

As many Habs fans are aware, one of their last games of the season had no Quebec-born players in the lineup for the first time in Franchise history. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Quebec Premier Francois Legault were quick to share their thoughts, with both stating that the organization needs to do more to bring in French-Canadian players. Ciccone admitted that while he was disappointed about this situation, he wasn’t surprised.

“What we saw was a result of something that went wrong many years ago,” said Ciccone. “Hockey Quebec’s mandate isn’t to form players for the NHL. On the other hand, if you have good development and surroundings here for our kids, how they can develop as athletes will make them become better hockey players.”

Ciccone continued to break down the issues with Quebec’s hockey development. “We identify a star player too rapidly here in Quebec. We put him in a structure and try to make an elite player out of him. We shouldn’t do this. A lot of kids develop in the longer run. Some are taller, some are bigger, etc.”

Hockey Quebec’s development program has put more of an emphasis on competitiveness and less on actual development, and this has unfortunately been a major downfall for the province’s hockey players. “Look at Finland, Sweden, and even the US. They don’t look at stats, positions. They play everywhere and everyone has the same skills on the ice. As they grow up, everything falls into place naturally,” explained Ciccone. “Here we decide that at 12 years old, a player is a defenseman and he will play 12 months of AAA hockey. A lot of kids just leave because they are fed up.”

This prohibits most players from playing other sports, which according to Ciccone, limits their athleticism. “You have to be an athlete before you become an NHL player.”

As of today, there are only 60 Quebec-born hockey players playing in the NHL among 31 teams (soon to be 32). Two of these players are on the Habs. “Asking the Canadiens to have six, seven, or even eight French-Canadian players when there are only 60 isn’t realistic,” said host Tony Marinaro, who also acknowledged the importance of having Quebec-born players on the Habs roster.

Perhaps the most controversial topic of discussion when concerning French-Canadian players on the Canadiens is the enormous pressure that the players face. “When a Quebec player is in a drought, the media is the first to shoot him,” said Ciccone. “There are players everywhere in the NHL that have bad games, but they come back to the rink the next day with no pressure because they don’t talk about it the same way that they do here with Quebec players.”

Habs forward Jonathan Drouin had to take a leave of absence a few weeks ago and has announced that he will not return for the post-season. Many fans have speculated that the pressure was the main cause of this absence.

This would unfortunately mean that Drouin has been the victim of the French media just as Enrico explained. Many players were underwhelming for the Canadiens this past season, and people have acknowledged that, however, it was Drouin that seemed to be the public enemy number one.

If the people of Montreal want more Quebec-born players, they have to be more thoughtful, as it is the pressure brought on by the media and the fans that has been keeping the players away.

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