The decision to use an English-only version of “O Canada” angered some on social media, including former Montreal mayor and federal politician Denis Coderre, who criticized the league for the lack of French on Twitter.
“O Canada” was performed by Canadian crooner Michael Buble while an instrumental version of the “Star Spangled Banner” was performed at the Scotiabank Arena before the best of five series opener between Pittsburgh and Montreal.
The anthem of Buble, a Grammy Award-winning singer, was recorded in an empty Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
It was also used ahead of the Edmonton Oilers’ game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the other central NHL city, earlier on Saturday.
An NHL spokesperson said in an email that an English version of the anthem was used because Montreal was technically the road team for its first games against Pittsburgh.
“Games 1 and 2 of the series are ‘road’ games for Montreal,” wrote Gary Meagher. “When they are the home team (Games 3 and 4) – game presentation and hockey operations will include a number of elements of a game at the Bell Center. ”
A senior spokesperson for the Canadiens organization said those kinds of decisions in the bubble ultimately fell to the league.
But Paul Wilson, the club’s vice president of public affairs and communications, told The Canadian Press that team owner Geoff Molson noticed the lack of French during the anthem, asking Wilson to inquire as to why this was the case in a text message.
Some social media users stacked up when they realized the lack of French in the anthem – especially as the Canadiens were playing.
Still frank Coderre, a staunch Habs fan, also dismissed another Twitter user’s suggestion that it was a home game in Pittsburgh.
Coderre said he heard a bilingual Canadian anthem played in a game played in Pittsburgh previously.