Many, if not most, of us said and did and wrote things in the 20th century that would fail to pass the societal sniff test two decades into the 21st century.
Talking and acting like Archie Bunker or George Jefferson just doesn’t cut it today, at least not in mixed company and certainly not if you’re a sports figure or organization with influence and power and a platform.
Don Cherry can tell us all about that.
Grapes’ Hockey Night in Canada gig was like an All In the Family spinoff series, except it wasn’t nearly as funny and Archie Bunker didn’t wear clothing that looked like Edith’s table cloth. Still, Coach’s Corner survived close to 40 years of misogyny, xenophobia, gay-mocking voices, sexism, leftist-bashing, etc. before it finally came crashing down at the back end of 2019, when Cherry scolded “you people” (immigrants) for enjoying our “milk and honey” but refusing to purchase and wear poppies for Remembrance Day.
The careers of others, like broadcasters Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roanick, have died on a similar hill, only their undoing leaned more toward boys-will-be-boys banter. You know, cringeworthy spewings that would earn giggles in the frat house but not at the family dinner table or on national TV.
Fringe NHLer Brendan Leipsic, meanwhile, was still earning his chops when he participated in a group chat featuring degrading comments and pics of misogyny, body shaming and other unpleasantness. The Washington Capitols promptly parted company with Leipsic and, not long after, he booked passage to Russia, presumably in close proximity to the Siberian border.
All of which brings us to the Montreal Canadiens.
If the Habs and, by extension, the NHL were unaware of a different-thinking, less-tolerant society that tends to not look the other way when women, minorities or the marginalized are skewered and/or shamed, they were brought up to speed on the weekend.
The outrage that followed the selection of Logan Mailloux in the entry draft has been as fierce, fevered and unyielding as it is justified.
Mailloux, you see, went full cad-mode last winter while with SK Lejon in Sweden’s Division III. He hooked up with a young lady who obliged him in oral sex, and there’s no crime in a hot-blooded, late-teenage lad letting the wolf lose. It is, however, a firm no-no to secretly take pics and share them, also the women’s identity, without her knowledge and consent.
Swedish authorities tend to harrumph and frown when that happens, so they charged Mailloux with defamation and offensive photography, then fined him the equivalent of $1,650US.
Les Canadiens, on the other hand, apparently considered the crime a party gag gone wrong.
Thus general manager Marc Bergevin used his first shoutout (31st overall) at the annual grab bag of teen talent to pluck Mailloux, which went against the grain of his clearly expressed wishes. He had informed all 32 NHL outfits to steer clear. He wanted some buffer time to contemplate his misguided ways and allow his moral compass to catch up to a still-growing body jacked up on testosterone.
The Habs were having none of that. To hell with political correctness.
Well, here’s what the Habs, also the NHL, are missing: The same way domestic violence doesn’t always mean visible bruising, sexual assault isn’t just rape. It isn’t just a body thing.
Sexual assault has layers like an onion. It can be words. It can be stalking. It can be the lecherous looks and lewd suggestive comments from a group of men who make you dash to safety on the other side of the street. It can be an email. And it definitely is the unwanted sharing of sex photos you didn’t know existed. They don’t take a rape kit for that type of sexual assault, but they might send you to a therapist.
If it sounds like I’ve been there and had some of that done to me, it’s only because it’s true.
Not all sex crimes carry the same heft on the surface. What Mailloux did shouldn’t be as punitive as rape, but it should be more punitive than a small fine and a “welcome aboard, kid” from the Montreal Canadiens and NHL. I mean, he didn’t rape her so everything is supposed to be cool? Nice try. They can’t possibly know the impact it’s had on the victim. Anyone reach out to that young lady? What’s she going through today? What’s her hell been like in the past eight months? Do they even give a damn? No. They don’t.
I don’t know where the NHL stands on the sexual assault and domestic violence files. Does anyone?
Slava Voynov beat up his wife in 2014, spent time behind bars, vamoosed to Mother Russia, played in the Olympics, and hasn’t been on an NHL pond since. Austin Watson was instructed to spend 18 games in the corner after roughing up his wife.
And I suppose that’s progress.
Goaltender Sean Burke, for example, laid hands on his wife, Leslie, while with the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. She had bruising to the face and neck and he spent 21½ hours in the brig. Yet he didn’t miss a beat. No suspension.
“I’m not going to sit the guy out because I’m trying to make a public relations move,” then-head coach Paul Maurice told news snoops. “We are talking about human beings here. Yes he’s an athlete and yes he’s a public figure, but there are two human beings involved in a difficult situation and they are trying to work through that. There is not a lot of denial going on. They are trying to work through it. What they need is support from everyone—their family, the family on the ice and their new family in North Carolina.”
Imagine that, refusing to sit a wife-beater because it might be viewed as a PR stunt. Incredible.
How about sitting him because it’s the right thing to do?
At any rate, perhaps we ought not be surprised how les Canadiens handled the Mailloux situation. After all, Burke is now Montreal’s director of goaltending.