Tuesday, 26 November 2019

We Have To Be Better

It's been a crazy few weeks in hockey, hasn't it? The three men above are embroiled in controversy for their comments and/or actions regarding their teams and/or the game of hockey, and these incidents are causing teams everywhere to pump the brakes and take a long, hard look at the actions of some individuals within those teams. I get that we live in a litigious society where spilling hot coffee brings about lawsuits against fast-food restaurants, but perhaps we're missing the bigger picture by simply losing sight of what is right, what is wrong, how to show respect, and how to be good to one another.

Look, I'm not here to single the three men out above for what they did or what they said. Two of them have lost jobs, and the third man seems perilously close to joining them on the unemployment line. There are always consequences for every action, decision, and impulse we act upon, and these men are living proof that their actions and decisions can occasionally come with rather drastic consequences.

There has been a lot of debate at my place of work about whether or not the actions and words of these men are acceptable today, and I have to believe that they are not. Specifically, I want to focus on what reportedly happened in Carolina regarding Bill Peters and former Hurricanes defenceman Michal Jordan. TSN's Frank Seravelli tweeted the following:
While the court of public opinion was quick to crucify Peters, the Calgary Flames are now investigating whether or not there is any veracity to this story while asking Peters to step away from the Flames' coaching duties while the investigation moves forward. I'm not here to serve as judge or jury on this story, but it seems there were enough witnesses to the incident between Jordan and Peters that it will be hard for Peters to deny.

This, however, is where I want to dig in a little deeper because there is never a moment at any point that a coach should assault a player like Peters seems to have done to Jordan, let alone invade a player's personal physical space at any time. The fact that Peters allegedly kicked Jordan for some unknown reason not only shows that there's a problem with how Peters approached this situation, but that his decision and action in kicking Jordan would be, can be, and should be categorized as assault.

Maybe, though, we need to take a broader overview of what's happening across the hockey spectrum as more and more players are speaking out about the atrocities and abuse suffered at the hands of coaches and fellow players. I have written article after article after article after article after article about the abuses that players and officials have endured from coaches and fans, and there are still people who claim that these players and officials are "soft" or can't cut it. They suggest that leaving the game might be an appropriate response if these players and officials "can't handle" the abuse they're taking. A lot of players and officials do, in fact, leave the game because of this abuse, but how on earth is this an acceptable solution to coaches and fans who feel that abusive behaviour is "part of the game" at the hockey rink?

It's hard for me to sit here and think that Bill Peters, as a coach, kicked a professional hockey player "pretty hard" in the back as he sat on the bench, but that seems to be exactly what happened. I don't care what Jordan did as a player - whether he missed a pass, gave up a scoring chance, or shot the puck in his own net - there is no acceptable reason or justification for Peters to have kicked him in the back, let alone kicked him at all. There is nothing "soft" about holding Bill Peters accountable for his actions in this case.

Let me be very clear: nothing, zero, none, zilch. I cannot stress the ZERO part enough of "nothing".

I don't know where we, as a society, started to veer off a path where we're good and just and fair and respectable. When I coached, I understood my role was to expand minds, get my players to improve, and always ensure that players were having fun. Yes, I didn't coach at the NHL level, but I'm pretty certain that kicking anyone literally or metaphorically would have resulted in me being removed from my coaching post rather quickly and with some extreme prejudice. So I have to ask why we tolerate those actions from an NHL coach, but not from any other coach at any other level?

Again, I'm not judge or jury when it comes to what the Calgary Flames will do regarding these allegations against their head coach while he was with other organizations. I do know that if we want hockey, as a whole, to be better, we need to flesh these problems out and demand accountability for the actions of these people. If we fail to drag these people who are committing these abuses into the light where their abuses can be exposed, this sport will never improve its image.

As a coach, you never strike a player for any reason. It's a pretty clear rule despite it being an unwritten rule. A pat on the back, a stick tap to the shin pads, or a fist bump would be acceptable interactions between a coach and a player. Kicking an unsuspecting player in the back as he sits on the bench would be classified as assault. There is no gray area here, and there never will be - Bill Peters assaulted Michal Jordan, and that alone should be a major red flag for any future employers.

We have to be better for this sport to be better. Case closed.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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