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Five Thoughts For Friday: Hockey Has Major Problems

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I have had enough.

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin K. Aller/NHLI via Getty Images

Content warning: The following piece contains references to sexual assault


Look, I know that the Ottawa Senators have made some moves over the past few days. I know that there are tons of interesting points to fixate on and speculate about. There will be plenty of time to pontificate about them in the coming days, but before we do that, there are a few more pressing things that I have to get off my chest here. I’m tired of still having to talk about hockey culture, but this is where we’re at.

This is Five Thoughts for Friday, July 30th, 2021.

On Tony DeAngelo

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers”n Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

I don’t know that I have anything new to add on the Carolina Hurricanes signing Tony DeAngelo. If you want a detailed, nuanced look at this situation, you should read Sara Civian’s column in The Athletic on the remarks made by DeAngelo, and Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell.

So many Hurricanes fans are now questioning if this is really an environment full of people who love them back.

But a brand can’t love you back, and the Hurricanes’ touting of a fan-friendly, accepting culture of positive tweets saying “Hockey is For Everyone” was just that — a well-curated brand.

...

They aren’t owned by the community or the fan culture or the fantasy of what it means to be a small-market team. They’re owned by a rich man, Tom Dundon. And he just spent $1 million to sign a player he thinks can be a good deal.

Hockey culture is insidious, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise: The Hurricanes are not exempt.

The fact of the matter is that the Hurricanes are affording a second chance to a guy with a history of overt racism, bigoted comments, abuse of officials, and bullying his own teammates. All of this is known. What’s worse, is Carolina doesn’t even seem to be sure as to why they’re putting their faith in him.

Redemption arcs are for people that have done the work. If DeAngelo has put in the requisite effort, he and the Hurricanes sure haven’t shown us that’s the case.

On Jake Virtanen

NHL: APR 28 Canucks at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Let me start off by saying that Jake Virtanen deserves his day in court. The former Vancouver Canucks forward is facing allegations of sexual misconduct, and he is entitled to the presumption of innocence that our justice system provides.

That said, his accuser deserves to have her accusations taken seriously, and shouldn’t have to face Virtanen on TV every night, reaping the rewards of his professional hockey dream.

This makes the Hurricanes’ reported interest in Virtanen troubling, to say the least. For an organization that has built a reputation of being inclusive, and accessible to their fans to not only sign DeAngelo, but apparently also kick tires on Virtanen is beyond disappointing.

On Logan Mailloux

2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Vitor Munhoz/NHLI via Getty Images

Speaking of someone who hasn’t done the work, we enter the Montreal Canadiens’ first-round draft selection from last week. As you well know by now, the Canadiens drafted Logan Mailloux. Mailloux had requested to not be selected this year after being convicted of distributing an intimate photo of a woman from a sexual encounter in Sweden last year, without her consent.

The Canadiens stepping to the virtual podium, on national television, and selecting Mailloux was nothing short of a disgrace. In a strikingly similar scene to Waddell’s meandering, there was Marc Bergevin’s rambling about the unacceptability of Mailloux’s acts — while also talking about how the Canadiens can somehow help him learn and grow, or something. It was more of an answer than assistant GM Trevor Timmins was able to give, anyway.

Again: there haven’t been any signs of remorse or growth from Mailloux. Being drafted in the first round by the Canadiens is nothing resembling a consequence for his actions, so it’s hard to argue he’s paid for what he did. Rachel Doerrie wrote a fantastic piece on the issue for EP Rinkside, and feeling unwelcome in the game she loves. I would highly recommend reading it:

On the Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks v San Jose Sharks Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Every time I think this story can’t possibly get any worse, it somehow does.

Thanks to more incredible reporting from Rick Westhead, we learned that former Blackhawks defenceman Nick Boynton — a member of the 2010 team — shed some more light on the dynamic surrounding the team during which the alleged offences by Brad Aldrich took place.

“They asked me who knew and I gave them names, basically everybody on the team,” Boynton told TSN in an interview on Wednesday. “I said everybody f---ing knew about it. I said you can talk to the coaches. …I said talk to Torch [former assistant coach John Torchetti]. I called out Brian Campbell, and said talk to Patrick Sharp and talk to Kaner [Patrick Kane]. …The training staff knew. I’m sick of this wall of silence.”

I’m sick of the “wall of silence” too. It’s just another example of the myriad ways in which hockey culture needs to change. The fact that there are potentially prominent figures still in the league that have been withholding this information for a decade is sickening. Hockey should not be a safe space for abusers.

In Summary

2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

I’m sorry this wasn’t Sens-focused. I know you were probably expecting that, but I just rattled off four examples of hockey culture’s toxicity. All of them from within the last seven days.

I love this sport. It’s given more than I ever deserved, and it means the world to me, but it’s not a safe place for everyone. For the racialized people who were hurt by DeAngelo’s unceasing rhetoric, to the women who wonder about their place in the sport while the likes of Mailloux and Virtanen are welcomed with open arms, hockey does not feel like a sport deserving of the reverent reputation it likes to claim.

One day it can get there. This isn’t hopeless, but it has a long way to go.