Monday, 3 November 2014

The OHL Has A Big Problem

If you missed the craziness on Twitter earlier tonight, you might want to hold onto your seat. I happened to be getting caught up on a few minor stories I was following earlier in the day when an account called @OHLinsiders broke two separate, unrelated Tinder conversations between two OHL players and two women. The conversations not only put the players in a very negative light, but the OHL itself will probably be forced to address this issue since it casts a shadow on the entire league through association. Honestly, with the news about Jian Ghomeshi prominent across the Canadian landscape, this is the last thing into which the OHL needed to be dragged.

We'll start with Belleville Bulls' winger Jake Marchment. I took the liberty of removing words that were less than pleasant, but you can probably figure out what was being said based on the conversation. I will fully admit that I don't know Lindsay nor do I know what kind of relationship she had prior to this conversation with Jake, but this incident doesn't look good in terms of how it's framed. While I will always give the benefit of the doubt to Jake in terms of being innocent until proven guilty, what he said is pretty despicable when you put into context the entitlement that seems to be dripping off his words: "Babe I play in the O and got drafted to the NHL ya I get turned down so much...Lolz you ugly [expletive]". No offence, but I feel dirty just reading that.

His initial statements about "just sleep with me" shows that there is a serious culture problem in the game. I don't care if Jake was an NHL superstar or a plug on the fourth line for Belleville because what he wrote is absolutely idiotic. His belief that it would be easy to get Lindsay to sleep with him because he plays hockey drips with ego and narcissism, and Mr. Marchment needs a reality check.

Joining him on this reality check should be Peterborough Petes' centerman Greg Betzold. Greg also was chatting online with a female friend (or less) when things went off-kilter. Again, I took the liberty of removing words that were less than pleasant, but you can probably figure out what was being said based on the conversation. I will fully admit once more that I don't know who the woman is that Greg is speaking to nor do I know what kind of relationship he had prior to this conversation with the lady, but this incident is again a huge stain on the league when it comes to player behavior. Greg's comments are repulsive, and his belief as to what kind of girl he's speaking to shows that he too believes he's heading to a bigger stage than Peterborough, Ontario.

Greg Betzold has also not been drafted. He's played 142 OHL games with the Peterborough Petes, scoring 29 goals and adding 44 assists. While his numbers are marginally better than Chad Heffernan's numbers, he hasn't hit the radar of any NHL teams at this point. As a 19 year-old, he doesn't have many opportunities left to impress NHL scouts, and I'm quite certain this outburst via social media won't help his cause whatsoever.

If there is one redeeming quality shown by Betzold, it's that he has apologized for his outburst. I'm not saying that it makes what he said ok by any means, but he apologized on his own which shows he may have some remorse in the situation. Whether it's remorse for what he said or simply being caught in the public's eye with this stain on him is another matter altogether, but I'll reserve judgment and say that Betzold's apology is sincere.

It needs to be asked if these two incidents are perhaps the tip of the iceberg when it comes to CHL players. What is it that allows these teenagers to feel as though they are any different than you or I? If your answer is "because they play hockey", you're not seeing the full picture. While this isn't a forum to discuss what these players get paid or should be paid, they are technically like any other high school or early college-years teenager/young adult out there: slightly immature, working hard to get a better job, and immersed in social media.

Because they play in the OHL, it shouldn't allow them to have any sort of entitlement, or give them any right to treat women - or any fans, for that matter - with such blatant disrespect. It's like the kid at Starbucks slinging coffee across a counter: you still have a job to do if the customer is a jerk. Playing in the Canadian Hockey League, like any job on the planet, is a privilege, not a right, and can be taken away at any time. Players would be wise to remember that they are applying for jobs both in the hockey community and with minor-pro teams after their junior careers are done, and actions speak much louder than words when it comes to fan relations in the minor leagues.

In Jake's and Greg's defence, I have seen some of the "puck bunnies" who chase after junior players, and some of those women make it difficult for those female fans who actually do admire these players for their on-ice talent to even have a shot at speaking with them. However, the same reserved personality must be used when dealing with a seven year-old there to get your autograph or a crazed fan who wants everything and more. Learning to deal with these situations in a calm, cool manner is a watershed moment for all players, and one that will definitely be needed if there is future hockey to play for these two.

However, I need to draw a line here. Marchment and Betzold were speaking with two women via a social media app wherein both parties have to take an interest in one another for a conversation to begin. To have that conversation spin out of control for them to use the language they did combined with the false sense of entitlement they believe they have shows that these two are quite immature despite playing in one of the world's premiere major junior hockey leagues. Rejection, gentlemen, happens to everyone. Just because you play hockey doesn't make you a god.

Greg Betzold and Jake Marchment need to be reminded that they represent their individual teams AND the OHL at all times while serving as members of the two OHL teams. They failed that effort on social media in a big way, and I wouldn't be surprised if CHL and OHL Commissioner David Branch sat these two kids down and read them the riot act about their responsibilities.

They may not realize it, but women play a large role as fans in hockey. To isolate and drive them away with the language and demeanor these two showed is akin to cutting one's nose off to spite one's face.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

UPDATE: Edited to reflect the correct player from the Belleville Bulls.

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