Saturday, 1 November 2014

Canadiens draftees would benefit from picking up the French language.

If you’re a parent or agent of a player who just got drafted by the Canadiens, and the kid is even moderately smart, don’t you immediately get him a Rosetta Stone French language course, and use the two or three years of development in junior/AHL as an investment in the kid’s career? Aren’t you failing in your duty if you don’t?

Learning a language has come a long way since the Berlitz days, or language schools. Computer self-directed courses are amazing, really anybody can learn any language to some degree. I took a typing course in high school and it was such a slog to attain even basic proficiency. Fast-forward ten years, and I’m working with two Russian émigrés who bought themselves a typing tutor program with their 386′s at the Try’n'Save, and within a couple of months they were as agile on the keyboard as I was. Whistler has a few language schools, and they’re still doing okay, mostly because their market is rich kids from rich families who want an excuse to go to Whistler, but friends in the business say they’re feeling the bite, because the computer courses are so effective. Possibly, even a hockey player could benefit from them.

If the kid gets to Montréal with Ken Dryden-level French verbal skills, it does two things. First, it’s almost as if he has a de facto No Trade Clause. He becomes important in terms of being able to connect with your fans, your market, so the team factors that into the equation of how valuable an asset he is. Of course, this isn’t bulletproof, in that Maxim Lapierre or Mike Ribeiro get traded away when they’re too much trouble, but a loyal soldier like Francis Bouillon possibly extended his career by one or two years because he had this additional skill, which a Mike Komisarek or Chris Campoli did not.

Also, and more importantly, don’t you stand to double your kid’s earnings if he can do all the PR and commercial work in French? Instead of the stilted commercials we saw last season with Brendan Gallagher, where he gamely but inelegantly speaks his lines phonetically, imagine if he’d been able to throw down more naturally?

In the olden days, with players believing that they might stick with one franchise their entire career, it made sense for Steve Shutt and Murray Wilson to at least attempt to pick up some French. Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, and Ken Dryden got further in this quest, and were able to do some basic interviews between periods. There has followed since then decades in which players didn’t make that effort, possibly since they thought Montréal would be a temporary stop, and I get that. I get that Saku Koivu shouldn’t have to learn a third language, when English was already his second language.

This may be a stretch, but imagine what a towering lovable goofball Michael McCarron could do in the ad world if he could get by in French. He’d make a killing. It’s such an untapped potential, such an opportunity, that I wonder why player agents aren’t all over it.

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