Stanley Cup winner Nick Kypreos played eight seasons in the National Hockey League for the Hartford Whalers, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s now a broadcaster with Sportsnet TV and Sportsnet 590 The Fan radio in Toronto.
Are you a “hyphenated” Canadian? A Greek Canadian?
Yes. Very much so. Both my parents came from Greece at a young age. It was very much half and half growing up. We wear our Greek heritage very much on our sleeve.
Can you still speak Greek?
Oh yeah. I’m not as fluent as I’d like. It’s spoken very much still in our family, in our first generation and my kids, they’ve often asked for Greek lessons. We still plan on providing them, but right now the focus is French – in school.
Traditional bilingualism in Canada, promoted by our government and financed by our tax dollars, has always been English/French. With our increasingly multicultural demographics, should Canada broaden the scope of bilingualism?
I’m a traditionalist. I believe in our heritage, for sure, the history that we have. I support it. I don’t see the need for a big major overhaul.
Things have changed over the years in terms of our country’s being open to everyone, but I don’t think it’s physically – or financially – possible to appease everybody. I don’t know where the funds would come from.
Is language assimilation a good thing, then? To speak at least one of the nation’s two official languages?
There’s more opportunities now for kids. When I grew up, if you wanted a second language outside of your family nationality, it was French. Now, internationally, there’s more opportunity for kids. Kids today are thinking much broader than earning a living in Canada. They can go anywhere in the world and when they’re thinking second or third languages now, they’re thinking beyond the traditional English and French.
My parents, they knew that, after they left Greece, there was a good chance that a lot of that might be lost down the road. If they stayed in Greece, there was a good chance of their children marrying Greeks. I didn’t marry a Greek. My one sister did. My other sister married an Australian.
[My parents] came to Canada because they had more opportunity, a better chance and part of the trade-off is that you might lose a bit of your heritage and that was something they were willing to take a chance on. It’s not a good or bad thing. Only you as an individual know you’re progressing and you’re happy with the direction your life’s going, and if it costs you a bit of your heritage, that’s your call.
The Bill 101 language law in Quebec actively, sometimes ridiculously, protects the French language. In Quebec, native French speakers are on the decline. Is it a futile fight?
There’s some really old-school people out there who want to protect their tradition, their history, but there [are] constantly new voices. There’s a new generation coming and, all of a sudden, maybe your voice gets a little outdated. Life’s forever changing. People change, attitudes change, philosophies change.
What’s good for you at a particular moment – who knows if it’s good for somebody else 20 years down the road? There’s just no way of convincing people for the next hundred years this is the way it should be. That’s why we live in this society; everybody has a voice, and voices change every once in a while.
Yet official government policy and our taxes support only two official languages.
I do understand that. Maybe that changes somewhere down the road. Maybe the masses take a look at that and say, “Is that still the right idea?”
Say that happens and Canada adopts a third or even a fourth official language. What makes us “Canada” beyond our geography above the U.S. border? What links us if not a common – or a couple of common – languages?
You’re speaking to a traditionalist. My dad came from Greece. He’s proud of being Greek, for sure, but to this day – he’s 79 years old – he’s more proud of the fact he’s Canadian. You pick up the front page of the newspaper and see what’s going on all over the world and he constantly tells me we’re living in the greatest country in the world.
That makes me feel awfully good about being Canadian. I’m not saying we should become this huge global melting pot without establishing our roots and our heritage and making sure we continue to have identity. And our identity is being Canadian.