Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Carcillo Is A Hero

There's something to be said for Daniel Carcillo. The man has been on an incredible tear lately when it comes to concussion and mental health awareness, and he's already stated that the NHL's deal in a class-action lawsuit is one in which he won't be partaking because it simply doesn't do enough for the players affected. Dan Carcillo went all-in on the culture of hockey this weekend on Twitter as he described the hazings that he and teammates went through while as a member of the OHL's Sarnia Sting. Today, there was an article published by The Canadian Press that put it all together as Daniel Carcillo bared his soul and talked about the rituals and humiliation he and several teammates suffered at the hands of older teammates with the Sting.

I'll link the article, written by John Chidley-Hill, here as it appeared in the Times-Colonist. It's a tough read simply due to the horrific things that were done to Daniel and his teammates, but it presents a much larger problem when one considers that Daniel barely scratched the surface of the problem here. If this happened with one OHL team in 2002-03 when Carcillo was a rookie, how many other CHL teams saw incidents like this and did nothing to stop them? How many other coaches and players saw these hazings as "rites of passage" rather than psychologically-, emotionally-, and physically-traumatic incidents?

With Daniel's article published, more players began stepping forward.


Ladies and gentlemen, there is a problem with major junior hockey in this country to have three NHL players step up and speak out against the very institution that helped them get to the NHL. I can't offer answers or solutions on this one. There needs to be a wholesale examination from top to bottom about the practices that go on behind the scenes within CHL clubs. Two of the teams named - Belleville (now Hamilton) and Sarnia - clearly had problems in the past, and there may still be hazing problems today. I can't speak on that as I'm not privy to any of what happens off the ice.

What I do know is that, from speaking with players, these problems of hazing, harassment, and bullying aren't just limited to CHL teams. We heard Kelsey Neumann speak of problems she had at NCAA's SUNY-Plattsburgh. We're currently awaiting the civil trial of four players from the University of Lethbridge against the school, its athletic director, and the head coach of the women's hockey team. Sometimes, the bullying and humiliation comes from coaches as opposed to other players, but it's still the same problem when broken down to its core.

Look, don't start telling me that these are "isolated incidents" because they happen rarely. Once is too many times for this to happen. These are impressionable young men and women who put their trust in their coaches and teammates to help them and protect them when they're new to the club. They're told they can confide in their coaches and team because "we're a family". That rhetoric means nothing once that trust has been breached, so save me the time and oxygen because to these men and women this is not how family treats one another.

It's time that we as fans, coaches, management, and players admit that hockey has an institutional problem that will require us all to lift it out of the darkness into which some push it. How we do that is exactly how Daniel Carcillo did it: by summoning the courage, the integrity, and the bravery to talk to about it and calling it out for the trauma that it is. It's not easy to open up about these atrocities when one considers the trauma these players have been through and how long and deep they've kept these emotions bottled up. For some, it takes years of therapy and sessions with trained professionals to unlock the ability to process these emotions and traumatic events. It's important to find peace when it comes to these issues, though, and I hope that Daniel Carcillo's willingness to speak openly about his own traumatic experiences will encourage others to not only seek help, but hopefully will encourage them to stand up and call out this reprehensible behaviour.

If heroes are made of courage, integrity, and bravery, then Daniel Carcillo, Charles Amodeo, Shawn Matthias, Kyle Wellwood, Kelsey Neumann, Chelsea Kasprick, Alannah Jensen, Brittany Swayer, and Olivia Alexander are all heroes in my books. They took a stand and called out the atrocities happening behind closed doors when it comes to how they were treated. They risked their reputations and their livelihoods by saying, "Enough is enough" when it comes to the bullying, harassment, and hazing they were forced to endure, but they should be celebrated, not vilified, for pulling back the curtains on these unspeakable acts and exposing them for all to see. Their actions can force change at many levels, and we seem to be on that precipice of change with these recent incidents exposed.

Heroes take many forms. The four men and five women above are heroes in my books. Capes and cowls aren't needed.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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