Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier apologized to the team’s fans for hiring a coach who cannot speak French.
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The Canadiens placed a language barrier between a large section of the struggling team’s fans and the bench when it appointed unilingual English-speaker Randy Cunneyworth as interim head coach last month.
Gauthier was unapologetic when first announcing Cunneyworth’s promotion from assistant coach but spoke in a different tongue Monday.
"We’re disappointed and we’re sorry if we offended anybody by hiring someone who is not bilingual right now," Gauthier said during a midseason review at the team’s practice facility in Brossard, Quebec.
"But when you’re in the middle of a season and you’re trying to effect change and you’re having the difficulties we were having, you evaluate all your options," he added.
Montreal has not been buoyed by Cunneyworth’s arrival, with the team tasting victory only once in seven games under the new coach, who had never previously held a head-coaching job in the NHL.
Gauthier said he remained comfortable with Cunneyworth’s hiring but hinted that fans can expect to see a French speaker in the future.
"We felt the best option at this time was to work from within the organization," he said. "Those things can be taken care of in due time, but having a bilingual head coach of the Montreal Canadiens is very important and it’s something that will be part of our decision going forward."