MacLean Rebuke Crosses the Line

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Apr. 26) – Let me emphasize that I have nothing against French-Canadian people any more than African-Americans, Asians or another ethnicity. They – and we – are human beings and so long as we are peaceful and tolerant of our differences, we – and they – deserve to be treated with dignity.

Religion, color and political affiliation are irrelevant.

As such, I understood – to a point – where Rejean Tremblay was coming from when he wrote an angry rebuttal to Ron MacLean’s commentary, last Tuesday, on Francophone referee Francois St. Laurent working Game 4 of the Montreal-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup playoff at Bell Centre.

French-Canadian official Francis Charron made what I thought was a terrible call in Game 3, disallowing a legitimate goal by Ryan Callahan of the Lightning. Canadiens won the match, 3-2, en route to a four-game sweep. When St. Laurent was assigned to Game 4, MacLean – during an intermission panel discussion – questioned the optics (and only the optics) of a Francophone referee working the follow-up encounter of the series in Montreal. His remark was typically blasted out of proportion on social media (for whatever that’s worth) and MacLean offered what appeared to be an involuntary mea culpa later in the telecast.

On Thursday came a scathing rebuke from Tremblay in Le Journal de Montreal, a daily French tabloid he joined in 2011 after 37 years of distinguished work at the rival broadsheet newspaper La Presse. Tremblay, it must be noted, is a staunch separatist in the endless debate over Quebec gaining independence. As mentioned, that is Tremblay’s prerogative and I respect it. What I don’t respect is a personal attack in print on any person for offering his or her opinion. And that’s what Tremblay provided Le Journal de Montreal on Thursday; his belligerence toward MacLean translated and re-printed in theToronto Sun (both papers owned by Montreal-based Quebecor).

RESPECTED FRENCH-CANADIAN JOURNALIST REJEAN TREMBLAY.

Given Tremblay’s vehement political bend, this was not unexpected. Don Cherry, MacLean’s long-time partner on Coach’s Corner, has inflamed Francophone sensitivity in the past. And, there is often guilt by association. If Tremblay had written fervently about discrimination toward French Canada – perceived or otherwise – it would have been understandable. That he crossed the distinct journalistic line between opinion and personal assault weakened his point considerably.

“Let’s not forget that Montreal is part of the greatest country in the world,” Tremblay wrote. “So, if we’re part of the greatest, if we’re not sovereign, Ron MacLean can’t keep his mouth shut? His breath stinks.”

Had Tremblay stopped at “mouth shut?” his point would have been stated; the integrity of his opinion preserved. That he was moved to comment personally on MacLean in the follow-up sentence impugned the entire column. It simply wasn’t necessary. Tremblay had long-since made his mark on the sports writing fraternity in this country. He covered the splendid Montreal hockey teams of the late-1970’s under Scotty Bowman that won four consecutive Stanley Cup titles. He has forever been respected for a no-nonsense approach to journalism and is overdue to receive the Elmer Ferguson Award for writing excellence, which is accompanied by a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Commenting that MacLean’s “breath stinks” and referring to him as “Don Cherry’s lapdog at the CBC” diminished his own credibility.

It was also puzzling to me that Tremblay emphasized his patriotism. “Francis Charron is a good Canadian, as we all are in Quebec,” he wrote. “It seems to me that the population has been loud and clear enough in expressing its fear of a referendum (Quebeckers have twice voted down independence – in 1980 and 1995). We are Canadian and we’re certainly not dangerous.” Point taken. Yet, this is the same Rejean Tremblay that has often – in my presence – refused to stand in the press box before a hockey game while O Canada is sung. From my political viewpoint, that doesn’t equate to being a “good” or proud Canadian.

All of us are capable of making a strong point without becoming personal. When one chooses to cross that line, it weakens opinion and perspective. Rejean Tremblay should know that as well as anyone.

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