This is a column by Shireen Ahmed who writes opinions for CBC Sports. For more information about Opinion Department of CBCPlease take a look… FAQ.
In recent years, news about hockey seems to bring less joy than frustration.
Be it Kyle Beach’s history of abuse with the Chicago NHL team, the ongoing controversy in Hockey Canada over rape allegations by some members of its junior national teams, or Logan Mailloux being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens despite his pleas not to be considered of his conviction for sharing sexual photos of a woman without her consent. All of this leaves hockey fans with little encouragement or joy in the existing culture.
When Mitchell Miller, 20, was offered a contract by the Boston Bruins last week, fans, media and even players reacted with immediate anger.
As a 14-year-old, Miller pleaded guilty to bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a 14-year-old black student with developmental disabilities. Details of the attacks are troubling, Meyer-Crothers detailed in a statement he released Wednesday, and he also describes the online abuse he has suffered since news of the Bruins’ attempted signing broke.
Incredibly heartbreaking read, but a necessary one. Our actions, or lack thereof, have real consequences. A statement by Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, in his own words, sent to Akim Aliu, HDA Chairman, on November 8, 2022, asking the HDA to release publicly on his behalf. pic.twitter.com/dctpDdrXaL
Equally troubling is the fact that Meyer-Crothers’ mother says Miller has yet to reach the family in any meaningful way outside of a court-mandated letter.
That’s something I can’t stop thinking about. Miller’s apparent lack of remorse is disturbing. And so he shoves a young man back into the limelight about hockey when he might not be ready for it, all the while traumatizing the victim again.
Here’s what Isaiah Meyer-Crothers’ mother said about what the family thinks about Mitchell Miller right now. In particular, she points out that his abuse of Isaiah was not just an incident, but years of torture. https://t.co/f7zgpHG4gp
In response to the backlash, Miller’s agent, Eustace King of O2K administrationreleased a statement that mentioned the importance of Loretta Ross’ ideology of Counsel not Cancel, which I think is important. However, online responses to the statement were scathing, with many pointing out that the victim was not mentioned. And many of the organizations cited in the statement that work with Miller have publicly denied that this is the case.
Finally, Bruins president Cam Neely announced on Sunday that the organization had withdrawn its bid for Miller, admitting on Monday that the team had “dropped the ball” by properly reviewing it and not engaging with the Meyer family – Crothers had advised.
“That’s a great question,” Neely said when asked why the team didn’t reach out to the family. “Something I need to find out.”
It’s a terrible situation and for those who really want to see Miller have a chance to work and improve and make real amends with Meyer-Crothers, the hockey community and himself. How can we expect this 20-year-old to navigate this mess alone when everyone around him is making such woeful decisions?
CLOCK | NATIONAL: NHL signers ruled ineligible due to extreme bullying:
It gets even more ridiculous when we remember that this has happened before. Yes, friends, I also wrote about that at the time. in the In 2020, the Arizona Coyotes were drafted Miller and similarly to the Bruins, they eventually retired and renounced their rights to him. We see the same mistakes again.
What does that tell us about hockey?
Neely acknowledged that the contract offer was a failure of the organization. But I don’t think it was a failure, it shows how little hockey people really want to improve this sport.
At the same time, there are areas of hockey that I think deserve praise. Yes, even in this massive pile of sporting doo-doo, there have been some unprecedented events.
The fact that Bruins players Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have opposed a front office decision surprises me. We don’t often see your public comments in a sport that thrives on a culture of silence. And I think it definitely offers a model of integrity for the observant fans.
“The culture that we’ve built here is contrary to that type of behavior,” Bergeron said. “This dressing room is all about inclusion, diversity and respect.”
🎥 #NHLBruins Captain Patrice Bergeron addresses the media after this morning’s pregame skate: pic.twitter.com/HHS0T2Di2r
Bergeron leads the way players should lead. Telling the truth to those in power in a complicated and chaotic situation.
If the hockey world wants to change the culture, and “Hockey Is For All” is truly an anthem we want to embrace, then there must be opportunities for people to make amends and move forward.
I’m skeptical how the hockey powers that be allowed the use of Redemption Arcs – they can be applied unevenly depending on the player. We know leadership needs to be stronger. Awareness and understanding must be more thorough.
There are places in hockey where progress is made. There is exhibitions and other collections of important stories in the game. Black Girl Hockey Club Canada kicks off this weekend. There’s Hockey 4 Youth, a Toronto-based organization that brings refugee and racialized youth into the game.
There are areas where the leadership of players from across women’s football can really make a difference in smaller communities across the country. That PWHPA Showcase in Truro, NS brought out so many fans. And in the Premier Hockey Federation, the Montreal Force, the league’s most recent expansion team, won their first game.
There is anti-racism work by the Hockey Diversity Alliance and organizations like The Carnegie Initiative and by academics like that ice hockey in society. The talks are difficult and uncomfortable, but necessary.
So there is hope and promise. Nothing is perfect, but the intention to do good in the field of hockey is real. This is something that professional hockey seems to lack.
Part of me hopes that Miller really takes the time and the appropriate guidance to work his way into a place that understands how damage manifests and how it can be mitigated. But like many fans out there, I have no faith in hockey executives or decision makers right now.
But I have faith in the broader hockey community.
In the meantime, I will focus my attention and provide leadership for organizations, teams and individuals to come together and use their public trust, responsibility and integrity to truly eliminate in-game toxicity.
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