Do I detect the beginnings of a #MeTooTwo movement?
I’m thinking about the allegations in the sport of hockey. You get the feeling the sluice gates are just opening on this thing and there is more — a lot more — where that came from.
Stories of abuse, bullying and racist remarks by coaches against players are both surprising and not surprising at all. First, we had the coach of all coaches, Don Cherry, who was shown the door by Sportsnet after his now-infamous “you people” comments on Coach’s Corner that were deemed out of order. Then there was Bill Peters, the head coach of the Calgary Flames, who resigned after a former player, Nigerian-born Akim Aliu, alleged that Peters used racial slurs against him. There were also accusations against the now-deposed Toronto Maple Leafs coach, Mike Babcock.
And then the Chicago Blackhawks yanked assistant coach Marc Crawford from active duty after Sean Avery said Crawford kicked him while they were both with the L.A. Kings.
Excuse me? Sean Avery? Pointing a finger?
Would this be the same Sean Avery who was once the most-hated player in hockey for his racial slurs and his on-ice taunting of goalies? Off the ice, there was his arrest for disturbing the peace at his L.A. residence and his league suspension for making disgustingly sexist comments about ex-girlfriends.
This guy makes Boston Bruins bad boy Brad Marchand look like Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies.
And now, he is a victim of abuse?
No, we shouldn’t be surprised about these allegations. This is, after all, hockey, not tiddlywinks.
Until recently, hockey has been the poster child for violence in sport with the rallying cry — led by Cherry — that hockey wouldn’t be hockey without violence. So why would anyone expect a sport that loves on-ice violence to be any different with coaches in practice?
Old-school coaches worked in a culture where a little bit of the old shouty-shouty, punchy-punchy was considered part of the game. Abuse in sport — and in the sport of hockey — is nothing new. Twenty years ago, we had sexual abuse scandals brought to light by NHL players Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy. Hockey coach Graham James was sent to jail in connection with that.
Those were blatant examples of criminal violence in sport. But there is more going on with this recent spate of allegations. It’s a culture shift. The old-school game of hockey glorified yelling, berating and bashing heads in. But the world has changed. Violence in sport — whether verbal or physical — is no longer quite as acceptable. Sports organizations are doing backflips to come up with policies against this sort of thing. It’s not OK anymore.
The relationship of coach to athlete is one of power. Coaches decide which athletes will get to play, and who will sit the game out. If an athlete’s identity is built around the sport, the coach is someone who needs to be pleased.
The run-of-the-mill, rough-and-tumble of yesteryear is now considered harassment and abuse. I can hear the howls of protest now. You can’t apply today’s standards to behaviours of 10 or 25 years ago, some will say.
True, but nor is it fair to berate, humiliate and abuse another human being, whether it’s in hockey or anywhere else. The exit of Don Cherry is one thing, but this is the beginning of a bigger change in the culture of hockey.
Bye-bye, Rock ’em Sock ’em. Hello, #MeTooTwo.