Whenever I was reluctant to spill some piece of information I knew would land me in hot water as a kid, my mother would look me in the eye and say, "Tell the truth and shame the devil." She'd skewer me with equal parts guilt and a gimlet eye and before long the story would come spilling out. Sometimes I wish my mother could pull that trick on Pierre Gauthier, because, really, there's no need for the way he refuses to tell anybody what's happening with our team.
Gauthier needs to get over himself. He's not the head of CSIS or the chairman of the United Nations security council. He's the general manager of a fairly mediocre hockey team with some depressingly serious problems. He talks (when he talks) about the need for employees to communicate in both official languages, which he's more than capable of doing. Yet, he chooses to hide away in his seventh-floor office and remain unaccountable to the people who, although the organization seems to disdain them, actually pay the bills.
Right now, the ridiculousness of the Andrei Markov saga is making the Canadiens management look like a poorly-written spy show. On Canadian TV. Markov was practicing with contact in a regular pairing and made the trip to California, obviously with the intent to play at least once on the three-game sojourn. Instead, reporters tweeted Markov wasn't on the ice in Anaheim. Then he wasn't in San Jose at all, and speculation about whether he'd stayed behind in Anaheim or gone ahead to L.A. ran rampant. People began to question whether Markov had had another setback and was seeking medical help. The only sound from Gauthier's office was the echo of lettuce crunching in the silence.
If management's intention in suppressing information is to keep a lid on the bubbling cauldron of gossip in Montreal, it fails miserably. When no one's saying what's really going on, people start imagining all manner of possibilities. That's how the rumours the Habs hate so much get started in the future. A frank explanation would be much more effective in quashing unwanted speculation.
I'm not saying Gauthier should be obliged to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for every drop of information he can decant for the masses. Of course, the Canadiens are a business operation and some things, like who's targeted in a trade or who's high in draft consideration, should be kept in-house. However, when an important player like Markov is having setbacks, the fans and media deserve to know. Nobody's asking to see his MRI, for God's sake. People would just appreciate it if the organization had the decency to say, "Andrei's not feeling quite up to playing yet. He's gone to see a doctor in L.A. We'll have more information after that, and a better timeline for his return." Unfortunately, the arrogant cone of silence descends and the usual trickle of information becomes a dried creek bed.
And, it is arrogant, without a doubt. Why should Pierre Gauthier be allowed to disregard honest questions about what's happening with the team and its important players? Yes, the Canadiens are a business, but a business is only as strong as its customer base. Gauthier's decision to ignore the fans simply reveals his comfort in the knowledge that if one person quits coming to the Bell Centre, there'll be another there to take his place before the ink on the ticket is dry. He and the Canadiens take the fans for granted because they can.
We're not asking for much. We'd just like to have some kind of idea whether the team we pay through the nose to watch will be healthy at any point this season. We'd like to know if there's a chance we'll see our favourite player on the ice at last. Whether Gauthier's refusal to tell us the slightest bit of the truth comes from paranoia about revealing internal secrets or from disdain at our temerity in asking in the first place, it's not acceptable.
Come on, Gauthier. Tell the truth and shame the devil.