Picking a fight with a professional hockey player over allegedly anti-francophone on-ice slurs helped score political points for Denis Coderre in the run-up to the 2006 federal vote.
As a Liberal MP in the dying days of Paul Martin’s brief minority government, Coderre pounced on an episode that occurred during a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Phoenix Coyotes a month earlier. Coyotes captain Shane Doan was given a misconduct penalty, allegedly because he’d cursed one of the francophone officials as “f—ing French.” Despite Doan denying that he uttered the offending words and being cleared by the National Hockey League, a campaigning Coderre waged a bid against the Alberta-born player representing Canada at the upcoming Turin Games for showing anti-Quebec bias.
Doan sued him for defamation. But in a classic Coderre move, he used the ignominy to decry anti-French bias in the NHL and portray himself as the defender of language rights. Coderre countersued Doan. In the meantime, he retained his federal seat.
But now that Coderre is mayor of Montreal, this long-running legal feud has suddenly come back to haunt him, and at a most sensitive time.
With a municipal election on the horizon this fall, Le Journal de Montréal revealed Coderre is under investigation by the Unité permanente anticorruption and the RCMP over a $25,000 cheque he cashed in 2012.