Thursday, May 3, 2007
Don't Canadians have bigger issues to deal with?
By Scott Burnside
Is it any wonder much of the world views my native Canada as a curious backwater, a pleasant enough place in spite of its mosquitoes, perpetual crises of identity and strange political priorities?
Not when Canadian politicians put aside issues like poverty, crime, social problems facing its native peoples, a declining health care system and the conflict in Afghanistan, which has taken dozens of Canadian lives, to debate -- brace yourselves -- why Shane Doan is wearing the captain's C at the World Championships in Russia.
Mind-boggling and yet entirely believable from a country that continues to fret about what Don Cherry says every Saturday night as though his feelings on Russians or the French or anything else is a strike against the national foundation.
The Doan "incident" is 1½ years old, yet remains political fodder for the always outraged Quebecois.
The tired allegation is that during a game in Montreal in December 2005, Doan made a comment that was interpreted by one of four French Canadian officials working the game as being anti-French. There was an investigation. The NHL, which in the past has acted when players have made inappropriate comments on the ice, deemed there was nothing to the allegation. Case closed.
That didn't stop members of the federal separatist party Bloc Quebecois from howling in Ottawa when Doan was named to the Olympic team.
When Doan was named captain of the Canadian entry at this year's World Championships, the politicians, never afraid to publicly embarrass themselves in the name of the mother province, crawled out from beneath their poutine wagons and raised the cry once more.
Like parents fearful of setting off a child prone to uncontrollable tantrums, politicians from the other three federal political parties agreed that Hockey Canada officials should come to Ottawa to explain their decision to make Doan captain.
No unemployment, crime or social problems should stand in the way of the Doan witch hunt.
Here's the thing. Ask anyone who's ever met the native of Halkirk, Alberta, and they'll tell you Doan is one of the most civilized players in an often uncivilized profession. Gentle and respectful, Doan has repeatedly represented his country internationally, including a turn last year with the Canadian Olympic team. The father of four barely utters a curse word.
Sadly, Doan is a far better ambassador for his nation than the politicians in Ottawa, who shame themselves by pursing the issue to curry favor with voters who must surely be embarrassed themselves.
The world watches and laughs once more at this strange, awkward country that can't seem to help itself.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.