With an NHL lockout looming, many hockey fans have taken up their fandom slack by focusing on the CHL, Canada's junior league.
As usual, official information is very selective. Nowhere on CHL, OHL or the Sault Greyhounds websites is there any mention of the sexual assault charges laid on Aug. 25 against Greyhound players Nick Cousins, Andrew Fritsch and Mark Petaccio.
Sault Ste. Marie police investigated and laid the charges after a woman alleged they had raped her. The charges have not been proven in court, but the usual hockey spin on a far too frequent story has already begun.
"We're still going through the process of collecting information," Kyle Dubas, general manager for the Greyhounds, said on Sept. 2. "This is so far beyond a hockey situation we have not even thought ahead to training camp."
This comment would be laughable if it wasn't sick.
On Aug. 28 -- three days later -- Boston University released a report describing a "culture of sexual entitlement" that exists among BU men's ice-hockey players. The Report on Men's Ice Hockey task force was commissioned by Robert A Brown, president of the university, after two hockey players were charged with sexual assault in the space of three months.
The team's coach, Jack Parker, has resigned, which was one of the recommendations of the report.
Northern U.S. universities and junior hockey teams have had numerous instances where hockey players, many of them Canadian, have been charged with sexual assault and gang sexual assault.
On Feb. 10, 2010, Brock University Badgers goalie Mark Yetman was charged with three counts of sexual assault, two of choking and one of uttering threats after three victims went to police. Yetman was released by Brock but by January 2011 was playing with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts in the West Coast Senior Men's Circuit in the Maritimes.
Like many other players who face sexual assault charges in one town, Yetman simply transferred to another. Such is the affirmative-action program for male hockey players.
Cousins, Fritsch and Petaccio are being treated with similar kid gloves. They are attending a "confidential behavioural wellness program" because they need help dealing "with the stress associated with the charges," according to Greyhounds GM Kyle Dubas. Despite the severity of the charges, the team has not suspended them.
"The people running the (confidential) program are going to give us the nod of approval when they feel all three young men are ready to be reintegrated back into the team," said Dubas on Sept. 4. "They'll give us the approval on it when they believe the boys are ready... Hockey is not the priority for them right now."
The players are not boys. If they were boys, their identities would be protected. Without question, professional hockey is one place where a man can remain an emotional boy forever, but Dumas should at least be accurate in the media when describing their legal status. Under the law they are adults, and of all teams, the Greyhounds are well aware of this.
In 1993, star player Jarret Reid was charged with 22 offences after police investigated allegations from two former girlfriends. These included five sexual assaults, two break-and-enters, nine bodily assaults, uttering a death threat, two mischief charges and two breaches of bail order.
Reid pleaded guilty to several extremely violent and brutal crimes of rape, sexual assault, and assault causing bodily harm. He received a nine-month sentence and was out in three in December 1995.
Greyhound assistant coach, Danny Flynn, became the head hockey coach at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. He arranged for Reid to receive the university's prestigious athletic leadership award which recognizes leadership qualities on and off the ice. He also received a Petro-Canada athletic scholarship from the Canadian Olympic Committee on the recommendation of Flynn and Hockey Canada. Reid made the CIAU (now CIS) all-star team, and while on probation, illegally crossed the border in April 1997 to play the NCAA all-stars.
Flynn and coaches Daryl Young, Myles Muylaert and Tim Bothwell all pleaded ignorance when asked why they broke American law and brought a convicted sex offender over the border.
"He's a powerful player and did so well for us," said Young. "He assisted Kevin Powell on the third goal when we were tied with the U.S. in overtime."
On April 21, 1997, Reid was charged with three new counts of assault and two breaches of parole after an Antigonish girlfriend reported him to police. He went back to jail in April 1998.
During the same time, teammate Andrew Power was convicted on counts of sexual assault against a female.
Reid played professional hockey in Europe in 2005-06. Today, you can pay between $255 and $283 a session at WAVE Hockey in Burlington, Ont., and have your children coached by him. When asked how he was able to obtain such a job, Reid replied, "I paid a lawyer a lot of money and I got a pardon." His employers are fully aware of his violent history and endorse him wholeheartedly. Today, Flynn is head coach and director of operations of the CHL's Moncton Wildcats. In 2010, he was inducted into St. Francis Xavier's Hall of Fame.
Life seems to be pretty good for the criminally convicted at the alma mater of Cousins, Fritsch and Petaccio.
Laura Robinson wrote Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada's National Sport. Her critique of the Crown's handing of the trial of hockey coach David Frost is being published in the University of Ottawa Press's Sexual Assault in Canada this October.