Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hockey, heal thyself

  • Print

Canadian sailors who cross the equator for the first time are treated to a form of hazing where they may be required to kiss a fish and be immersed in a tank of water. It's an ancient tradition known as Crossing the Line, and by all accounts it has never gotten out of hand, in modern times at least. (You can find photos of the ritual on the navy's website.)

The point is that hazing can be a popular way of inviting newcomers into a fraternity, provided common sense, decency and sensitivity are applied.

In some frat houses, however, juvenile mentalities can turn a warm welcome into a brutal and demeaning experience. They cross the line from friendly initiation to extreme humiliation.

Hockey, unfortunately, seems to be one of those places where the best aspects of sportsmanship are often degraded, both on and off the ice.

Such is clearly the case in the sadistic hazing ritual that occurred in the locker-room of the Neepawa Natives, a team in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Some rookies were required to undress and then drag a box of water bottles by a rope tied to their genitals.

The team's coaches claim they were unaware of what was going on in the locker-room, but they had a duty and obligation to know. Hazing of any type is banned by Hockey Canada and its affiliates. Offenders are liable to suspensions of not less than one year, although lesser penalties are allowed in cases of undue hardship. For reasons that have not been explained, however, some of the perpetrators received suspensions of just two to five games, the kind of penalty that might be appropriate for swearing at an official.

The league has appointed an independent investigator, who should have the power to impose tougher penalties, which are obviously required to enforce the rules. Criminal charges may not be possible because of the possible existence of consent, but the case is worthy of an RCMP investigation nonetheless.

Other outstanding questions include whether similar forms of abuse were routine and widespread, or if the Neepawa case was merely an isolated incident, which seems unlikely.

In a larger context, the incident was discouraging for those who are demanding that professional players display less violence on the ice. How, after all, can older players be expected to behave properly if their violent instincts are encouraged as youth?

Hockey leagues claim they are raising gentlemen as well as hockey players, hence the requirement by some teams that players wear white shirts, ties and suits to the games if possible.

Junior hockey should be a time when youngsters learn the meaning of sportsmanship, but also the basic elements of humanity, decency and citizenship. If anything good is to come out of the locker-room in Neepawa, it must begin with a wholesale re-evaluation of the values and ethos of junior hockey.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2011 A18

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

The Winnipeg Free Press is not accepting comments on this story.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Key of Bart: God Rest Ye Premier Selinger

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose heads for shade in the sunshine Friday afternoon at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg - Day 26– June 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on the Jets so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google