BROSSARD, Quebec (AP) - The last-place Montreal Canadiens apologized to those fans upset with the team for not hiring a coach who speaks French.
The apology by general manager Pierre Gauthier on Monday comes two weeks after the appointment of coach Randy Cunneyworth touched off a language flap. The Canadiens market themselves as French Canada's team, and it's been 40 years since the team last hired a coach who couldn't speak French.
"I'm sorry if we upset people because that certainly wasn't our intention," Pierre Gauthier said Monday.
It was a far cry from his defiant response last month. When asked then about Cunneyworth's inability to communicate with French-speaking fans, Gauthier replied testily that languages could always be learned.
The controversy has been fueled by the team's poor play. Under Cunneyworth, the Canadiens have won only one of seven games.
The general manager added that Cunneyworth was hired on an interim basis and his status will be reviewed after the season.
"What will happen in the future, at the end of the season, is that we will re-evaluate the whole file," Gauthier said. "As (owner Geoff) Molson said in his communique a week ago, it's very important to us that our head coach be bilingual. So that will be part of our decision at that point."
Gauthier addressed the matter during his midseason news conference. Just before his appearance, two of the team's top players - center Tomas Plekanec and defenseman P.K. Subban - got into a fist-fight during practice. Neither player was hurt and both stayed on the ice as practice resumed.