Inside Montreal’s Captain Nick Suzuki’s French-language course

Montreal Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki Learn French in bits and pieces over time. He knows enough to show his gratitude when he’s at the grocery store or drinking coffee in a drive-thru. He’s seen how saying “Merci” after interviews can go a long way with fans.

There are the individual bushings he and his colleagues use with athletic trainers and equipment crews during day-to-day interactions. He also had the opportunity to ask some questions to friends and pick up some phrases that help him in his daily life.

Now there is a plan in place to ensure that Suzuki and every Canadian player who wants to learn French has this opportunity. The Canadians have restarted a voluntary French-language program for their players that will be learned by former Canadian high jumper Alain Metellus, who had his first meeting with the players on Jan. 10.

“It’s been great,” said Suzuki of having a volunteer French program. “[Canadiens vice president of hockey communications Chantal Machabée] He did a great job and really encourages the guys to use French. It motivates us and makes us feel comfortable being able to do it.”

Machabée was hired by the Canadiens after spending 32 years at French broadcaster RDS as a sports reporter who covered the team. She said the decision to bring the program back came from Canadiens owner Jeff Molson who, along with Matchabi, believed that having more players who spoke French would allow them to have a stronger connection with the fans.

“It goes a long way with people,” said Matchabi. “It shows them that you really care about the team, the city, and the fans. The people of Montreal really appreciate that.”

When Suzuki was named captain before the season, there were Quebec politicians who invited the 23-year-old to learn French. Suzuki said he took French lessons growing up, which was part of the school curriculum back home in London, Ontario.

Suzuki said he began learning French again after his rights were traded to the Canadiens as part of Max Pacioretty’s deal with the Vegas Golden Knights. He had a membership in Babbel, an online language program. Used it at first but stopped for a few years before using Babbel again in the summer.

“You can write your answers and you can speak your answers into your phone and it will tell you if you say it correctly,” said Suzuki. “It wasn’t an everyday thing. We’ve been pretty busy (with the season), and I like doing it to relax when I have time off.”

Machabée began looking for a mentor before the season started. She was collecting biographies when a mutual acquaintance told her about Metellus. What sets Metellus apart, who grew up in Montreal, is the idea that a team can have a tutor who can teach them French in a more connected way rather than the traditional way.

Another detail Matchabi said she appreciates about Metellus is that players can communicate about what it means to be an athlete with media commitments trying to learn a new language.

Metellus, who spoke English and French, also lived in Germany. He learned how to speak German and was able to use his knowledge of foreign languages ​​to teach English and French in a corporate environment.

“I know what it feels like to learn a new language from scratch,” Metellus said. “What you feel is when you say something that can’t be beat. It’s like being right-handed and being told to write with your left hand. You think it’s impossible.”

The key to learning a new language, Metellus said, is realizing that a person’s native language is not the norm.

“I often tell people, ‘This new language is just different,’” Metellus said. “The perspective changes and you have to have the right angle. If you have the wrong perspective, you will always be angry.”

So how does it feel to be the leader of Canadians who is also trying to learn French at the same time?

Just ask Brian Giunta. The longtime NHL right winger grew up in Rochester, New York, before spending four years at Boston College. Giunta spent seven seasons with the team that drafted him, the New Jersey Devils, before coming to Montreal. He spent five seasons in Montreal and was captain in four of them.

Gyunta and his wife sent their children to a French immersion school. They befriend one of the mothers at the school, who also turns out to be a foreign language teacher, and tutors Gyunta and his wife.

Gionta said that learning French came with its challenges. And he admitted that there were times when his French might not have been the strongest. But he still wants to show he’s putting in the effort, whether it’s greeting the media in French before an English-language interview or speaking a few lines on opening night announcing the team.

“The fans were amazing,” Giunta said. “Maybe my five years in Montreal were the best of my career.” “We’ve had a great experience with it. The fans, the media, the organization. It’s all been great for myself and my family. … I wasn’t necessarily worried about trying to win people over or worrying if I’d lose a few people if I wasn’t good at it. But it was about Trying to do the best I can in the Montreal culture.”

Matchabi shared the tale of how Suzuki met the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby When they were on the NHL player’s tour in Las Vegas before the start of the season. She said Crosby told Suzuki how he didn’t speak French when he played juniors for Rimouski Oceanic but was able to learn.

I remembered how Crosby had told Suzuki that everyone at Rimouski had been patient with him and how they appreciated his efforts in learning French. Machabe then pointed out how it was a skill Crosby could continue to use as he had built close relationships with current and former teammates, such as Marc Andre FleuryAnd Chris Letang and Max Talbot, all French speakers who grew up in Quebec.

Suzuki, who spoke to ESPN earlier in the season, said he had never been given an interview entirely in French. Opening and closing interviews in French. But eventually he wants to get to a point where he can give an entire interview in French.

“I spoke French when I was appointed captain, but that was just a sentence at the beginning and end of the interviews,” said Suzuki. “I’m not quite there yet but I’d like to finally get to that point.”

Metellus wants the same for Suzuki and any Canadian gamer who cares about learning the language. Metellus said he wanted to get a feel for everyone’s level of mastery and also figure out what they wanted to work on.

From there, he’ll work with the Canadian communications staff to put together a schedule that works for the players. They are still working through certain details such as whether to have one-on-one or group sessions. Either way, Metellus said the plan is to have in-person sessions when the team is in Montreal while conducting remote sessions through video conferencing whenever they’re on the road.

“When the general public sees a Montreal Canadiens player improve his French or make an effort to learn it, the respect goes to the moon,” Metellus said. “The general public will really appreciate it. They’ll say, ‘At least he’s making an effort,’ and that’s what people want to see. If you’re able to play a part in that, it’s all good in the hood.”

Leave a Comment