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Well, we never.

French Immersion rarely shirks from an occasion to rise to the barricades, and the Francophone half of our twin identities has a chip on its shoulder the size of the Mount-Royal cross on matters relating to language.

And as you can see by the absurd length of this post, we have lots to say on the subject, and we've even spent a little bit of time thinking about it.

We promise not to let that happen too often, and no one here at FI expects any but the most masochistic among you to read to the bottom.

But if ever there was occasion to call the Impératif français hotline or dispatch the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste flying squad - loaded down with the collected works of Gérald Godin, a bunch of Mes Aïeux records and a choice selection of products from the terroir - this is it.

Louis Leblanc, first draft choice of the greatest hockey team in history and standard-bearer of Habs nation, is in the fast-lane toward assimilation in his first weeks as a student at Harvard University.

"I feel like I'm already an Anglophone," quoth Leblanc, a native of the worryingly bilingual Montreal suburb of Kirkland, Que., in an interview with the indispensable Mathias Brunet of La Presse.

It is to weep.

Unless it isn't.

Leblanc, like all Francophone hockey players, has a strong incentive to learn English, in that it's the lingua franca across the hockey world - yes, even the Habs practise in English, and have for at least a half-century if not longer.

The kid even spent last year in Omaha, fer gawd's sake.

And while there is much to deplore in l'Affaire Leblanc (and yes, he was joking, for those unaccustomed to the hilariously sarcastic tone employed by our team of under-worked writers) it's not as spine-chilling as the research carried out by former NHL player Bob Sirois.

You see, it turns out the league has a bad case of "anti-Francophone virus".

Sirois has found players from Quebec, a plucky peuple whose recent population explosion changes nothing in the fact our overall demographic heft is declining relative to the vast oceans of Anglos who surround us, now represent an ever-smaller proportion of NHL players.

Oh, goody.

Another recurrence of the dreaded hockey-language nexus, for those who just couldn't get enough of "Frog"-gate I, the ongoing legal skirmish pitting Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan against former Liberal cabinet minister Denis Coderre (or should that be "Liberal" since his outburst against the leader he so wholeheartedly supports?)

To be fair, Sirois' book appears to contain - what? You expect us to actually read it when there's hockey practices to be watched? - a sophisticated and exhaustive statistical analysis.

It establishes, among other things, that French-speaking Quebec-reared players are less likely to be drafted than their Anglo counterparts.

And the Francophones who do stick in the NHL are disproportionately more successful than Anglos, winning awards or trophies in almost 42 per cent of cases. This is apparently bolsters the argument that you have to be that much better than an Anglo to play if you're French-speaking.

Quebec-born French-speaking players are also less likely to find themselves in gritty, grinding roles on the third or fourth lines, and are routinely mis-portrayed as soft, defensively-reckless goal sucks.

Some teams are worse offenders than others, the more Franco-friendly ones include Buffalo, Philadelphia and Toronto (the villains of the piece are Phoenix, Dallas and Nashville - and to a lesser extent, Montreal).

But it seems to us that the book is also a tacit, but nevertheless devastating indictment of the QMJHL and the province's midget-AAA league.

If scouts can track down a prospect in Kazakhstan, surely they can get to Victoriaville, and if they don't like what they see, might it just be that the Q isn't giving them what they're looking for?

Is it coaching? Are they not practising enough? Are too many kids switching to soccer or football to sustain the flow of top prospects?

When was the last time a Quebec-based team made the final of the world's largest peewee tournament, held in Quebec City every year? 2003.

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