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Sports Kramberger: Hiring of Habs GM Kent Hughes feels like a West Island power-play

18:38  20 january  2022
18:38  20 january  2022 Source:   montrealgazette.com

Guy Lafleur paved road to the Canadiens for Chantal Machabée

  Guy Lafleur paved road to the Canadiens for Chantal Machabée Chantal Machabée has been on an emotional roller-coaster since the announcement was made Wednesday morning that she was leaving RDS after 32 years to become the Canadiens’ vice-president of communications. On Thursday morning, she received a congratulations text from Guy Lafleur that brought her to tears. Machabée developed her passion for hockey — and sports in general — as a young girl growing up up Laval watching Lafleur play for the Canadiens. During her long career at RDS, Machabée became more of a celebrity in Quebec than most of the players she covered on the Canadiens.

West Island native Kent Hughes has been hired as the new GM of the Montreal Canadiens. © Provided by The Gazette West Island native Kent Hughes has been hired as the new GM of the Montreal Canadiens.

Though in differing leadership roles, public office vs. private venture, two high-profile figures in Quebec come from the West Island — and it seems they are at times the most polarizing among the general population and pundits.

On one hand is Premier François Legault, a native of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue . Ste-Anne’s mayor, Paola Hawa, ran in 2012 under his party’s banner in Jacques-Cartier, a Liberal stronghold held at the time by Geoff Kelley and now by his son, MNA Greg Kelley, who grew up in Beaconsfield.

Game Day Notebook: First game since Jan. 1 as Habs visit Bruins

  Game Day Notebook: First game since Jan. 1 as Habs visit Bruins The Canadiens will play their first game since Jan. 1 when they face the Bruins Wednesday night in Boston (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Canadiens had 16 players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list when they lost 5-2 to the Panthers on New Year’s Day in Florida and were forced to play with only 18 players instead of the regular 20. The Canadiens will have a full lineup against the Bruins after the number of players they had on the COVID-19 protocol list reached 24 during their break in the schedule.

The Montreal Canadiens — mired in last place in the NHL season — just hired Kent Hughes, a Beaconsfield native who graduated from the local high school in 1987 and played hockey with the midget AAA Lac St-Louis Lions, whose alumni in the NHL includes Habs forward Jonathan Drouin. While Hughes has been an NHL player agent based in Boston for years, many of his clients were Quebecers, from retired NHLer Vincent Lecavalier, who is from Île-Bizard, to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Mike Matheson, who grew up in Pointe-Claire.

Although considered bilingual, the hiring of Hughes might face backlash by some segments of la belle province who expected the Habs brass — led by their new executive vice-president of hockey operations, American Jeff Gorton, and owner Geoff Molson — to hire a francophone candidate as their new GM.

The issue of unilingual English-speaking executives has raised the ire of Quebec nationalists from time to time, recently with Air Canada’s president and CEO Michael Rousseau.

The fact that Hughes is returning to Montreal after working in the United States for a long period doesn’t disqualify him as a Quebecer. Shortlisted francophone GM candidates, such as former NHL players Mathieu Darche (Tampa Bay Lightning ) and Daniel Brière (Maine Mariners) , are employed in management roles by U.S.-based hockey clubs.

Stu Cowan: New Canadiens GM Kent Hughes a breath of fresh air

  Stu Cowan: New Canadiens GM Kent Hughes a breath of fresh air Jeff Gorton wanted to make it clear that Kent Hughes is not his best friend. “Nobody would want any of my best friends to be running the Montreal Canadiens, so I would never do that to you,” Gorton, the Canadiens’ executive vice-president of hockey operations, said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Bell Centre to introduce Hughes as the team’s new general manager. “No offence, but Kent is not my best friend.” Gorton explained “Nobody would want any of my best friends to be running the Montreal Canadiens, so I would never do that to you,” Gorton, the Canadiens’ executive vice-president of hockey operations, said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Bell Centre to introduce Hughes as the team’s new gene

Quebec’s most popular sports are hockey and nationalism, as Montreal Gazette sports reporter Pat Hickey pointed out last fall when Legault mandated a committee to boost hockey talent in the province , a project that seems to be an attempt to increase the number of Québécois in the NHL.

Legault, who served in the Parti Québécois cabinet before forming the Coalition Avenir Québec, will be seeking a second mandate for his CAQ government this fall. Based on past voting patterns, the CAQ has as much a chance of winning any West Island seats as the Habs have of making the playoffs this season.

Hopefully, Hughes can help transform the Canadiens into habitual Stanley Cup contenders during his five-year mandate. If the Habs manage to win, West Islanders can expect a Cup tour stop in Beaconsfield, as happened last year with Alex Killorn after the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated Montreal in the finals.

While a fluently bilingual anglophone may never be elected premier of Quebec, it’s encouraging to know West Island natives can make inroads in high-profile institutions, such as the Habs in their home province.

Albert Kramberger is editor of the Montreal Gazette¹s West Island/Off-Island section.

akramberger@postmedia.com

twitter.com/akramberger1

Related

Canadiens name Kent Hughes as their new general manager .
Kent Hughes is the new general manager of the Canadiens. The team announced Tuesday morning that the 51-year-old Montreal native has become the 18th GM in franchise history, replacing Marc Bergevin, who was fired on Nov. 28. “We are very excited to add Kent Hughes to our organization,” Canadiens owner/president Geoff Molson said in a statement. “Kent is highly respected in the hockey world, having built an excellent reputation as an NHL player agent for over 25 years now.” Hughes will work with Jeff Gorton, who was named the Canadiens’ new executive vice-president of hockey operations after Bergevin was fired.

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