Coderre and Doan face off
Liberal MP sues NHL player after obtaining report of alleged anti-French slur
Macleans.ca staff | Apr 03, 2007 | 13:15:18
While the Denis Coderre/Shane Doan lawsuit and countersuit is getting little play in the English media, La Presse is having a field day with it.
After first revealing the contents of linesman Michel Cormier's report to the league on its front page in Monday's edition, the newspaper published a column by Jean-François Bégin on Tuesday in which the author suggests there is a simple lesson to be learned from the NHL's handling of the issue: "The National Hockey League truly has no respect for its francophone players, referees and fans."
"The levity the NHL has shown with respect to this story would have been unimaginable if Cormier had been black," Begin wrote. "It would have been unthinkable had he been Jewish."
La Presse's bloggers have picked up on the same theme. In one of his three blog entries on the matter, Patrick Lagacé suggests the league would have "run battallions of Zambonis over Doan's body" had he insulted blacks or jews. But "F---ING FRENCH is okay; that's a joke."
François Gagnon adds to the outrage on another La Presse blog. According to Gagnon, anti-francophone slurs just don't hold a candle to those against blacks and Jews and are dismissed out-of-hand by the NHL.
"Much more than Doan, it's the NHL that's the most damaged in the affair," Gagnon writes. "The contempt displayed by the actions of the NHL is stomach-turning."
Liberal MP Denis Coderre has launched a $45,000 defamation suit against the Phoenix Coyotes' Shane Doan in response to the NHL player's $250,000 defamation suit against him.
At the heart of the conflct are allegations Doan called four francophone on-ice officials "f---ing French" during a game in December 2005. At the time, Doan was given a gross misconduct penalty and a report was filed with the league. But Doan was cleared during a subsequent hearing at which he flatly denied using the slur.
Doan launched his suit after Coderre questioned his selection to the Canadian hockey team for the Turin Olympics on the basis of his alleged remarks.
Now, as part of his own suit, Coderre has obtained the report prepared for the league by Michel Cormier - a linesman during the game in question. In it, Cormier claims Doan's insult came after a warning was issued to the Coyotes' bench not to use the slur.
"At the end of the second period, I spoke to Mr. [Rick] Tocchet [the assistant coach] to tell him I would not tolerate any more racial commentaries like 'YOU F---ING FRENCH' from the number 17 Ladislav Nagy or from any other player," Cormier wrote. "Nonetheless, at the end of the third period, the number 19, Shane Doan, skated up to me saying: 'F---ING FRENCH, DID A GOOD JOB'."
Cormier reiterated his version of events to Coderre in a deposition, explaining that Nagy's slur had been dismissed as little more than the product of "emotion" and that Tocchet had warned his bench about the incident. The day after the game, Doan denied he had used the words. He was backed by the league's disciplinarian, Colin Campbell, who suggested the former minister should focus on his then-ongoing re-election campaign.
When Denis Coderre first voiced his concerns over the selection of Shane Doan to Canada's Olympic hockey team, they were dismissed as base electioneering by most observers.
"This is a politician that's grandstanding," hockey analyst John Davidson said on Hockey Night in Canada.
"If Mr. Coderre has any proof he should produce it. Otherwise he should just shut up," agreed Globe and Mail columnist Eric Duhatschek.
Coderre had written to Bob Nicholson, the president of Hockey Canada, requesting Doan be removed from the Olympic team. In the days that followed, he reiterated his stance on several occasions - saying in one interview that Doan had no place on the team because "he said something pretty nasty against frenchmen" and because "he used the F-word."(Coderre might have been referring to "frog," since very few players would have made the trip to the Turin Olympics if using another "F-word" was reason enough to be booted off the team.)
Coderre's request was rejected by Hockey Canada. But Doan nonetheless filed a $250,000 lawsuit against the former minister of amateur sport a month later when Coderre refused to apologize for his remarks.
While Coderre seemed to take particular offence to Doan's alleged discriminatory remarks, it was hardly the first such incident in North American hockey:
- Former NHL goalie John Vanbiesbrouck - who now works as a network commentator in the United States - was forced to resign as the coach and director of the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2003 after calling team captain Trevor Daley a "n-----".
- During a 2003 playoff game in Montreal between the Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes, a fan tossed a banana at Hurricanes' goalie Kevin Weekes.
- The Ottawa Senators' Vaclav Prospal was forced to attend a diversity training session after calling the Montreal Canadiens' Patrice Brisebois a "f---ing frog" during a game in 1999.
- In 1997, the Washington Capitals' Chris Simon was suspended for three games for calling the Edmonton Oilers' Mike Grier a "n-----." Simon's teammate Craig Berube was suspended for one game after he called the Florida Panthers' Peter Worrell a "monkey" a few weeks later.