“The Montreal Canadiens are evolving into a unique and particular market.” “The pressure here is much higher than in other places.”
These are generalities and clichés that we often hear about Habs. However, the situation of the Montreal Canadiens is not unique. Several professional teams operate in unique sports markets. This comparison between the Montreal market and other cities with sports franchises is not new. However, a major event in the world of soccer made me reflect on our vision for the Montreal Canadiens and their market. This event confirmed to me that CH is no different from the other big clubs on the planet and the Montreal market and the National Hockey League market are even quite smaller.
Earlier this week, after months of speculation about his move to Real Madrid in the Spanish league, international soccer star Kylian Mbappé signed a three-year contract extension with his club Paris St-Germain. A small (big?) scare in the world of football and even in the world of sports. What most caught my attention, in addition to the fact that Mbappé did not join Real, was the media coverage and the national and international repercussion of the announcement of his decision.
I came across a special program on the Team on French sports television. Like us, in addition to covering life, the press conference of the PSG president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi (accompanied by Mbappé), the team assigned to the report discussed the course of the event, as well as talked about the future of PSG and its star player. Every word of the team president has been scrutinized. We were even treated to a montage of all the times the Qatari called Mbappé the best player in the world.
We also analyze questions from Spanish journalists. Because yes, there were journalists from Spain who wanted to know why the French star turned his back on LaLiga. I wondered how we would react at home if a reporter from another market came to Carey Price’s contract extension news conference and asked her why she was looking at playing for another big club. Imagine the scene!
Another thing that struck me was how similar the topics covered in sports programming are from market to market and sport to sport. First, among the members of the round table of the special program, a former coach was at home. And not just anyone: Raymond Domenech, the former coach of the French national team.
Next, the speakers discussed the “political” weight of Mbappé within the club. Already the technical director of PSG, the former international star Leonardo, has been knocked out. Rumors send a relative of the Mbappé clan to lead the Parisians. We talked about the diminishing influence of Neymar and Messi. How everyone would want to throw the duvet on their side, especially Neymar. Commentators have also wondered about the Qatari owners of the Ligue 1 Champions League. What sporting guarantees have they given their jewel to extend his contract?
Speaking of owners, the question that most caught my attention at the press conference came from a Spanish journalist who asked Al-Khelaifi “why invest in France? A way of asking in a thinly veiled way: why invest so much money in a championship inferior to that of Spain? But what a slap in the face to Ligue 1.
Thanks to this question I realized the importance of Mbappé’s decision. I also understood why two Presidents of the Republic had called him to try to influence his decision. You got it right. Current French President Emmanuel Macron and former President Nicolas Sarkozy have contacted the French star. That same night, Mbappé was also a guest on the 8:00 p.m. newscast on TF1, the most popular newscast in France.
It gives you an idea of how big PSG is. How great football is and what a huge burden this decision to stay in the Parisian team entails. Because in addition to carrying the illusions of the team, it is also the reputation and notoriety of an entire league and an entire country that Mbappé carries on his shoulders.
Then you’ll understand that I shrug my shoulders when they talk about the pressure of playing hockey for the Montreal Canadiens.