Opinion

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This article was published 7/5/2020 (205 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

They come from some of the most prominent hockey families in Manitoba, a group of young men blessed with athletic gifts that allow them to be better than most at moving really fast on a sheet of ice while handling a frozen piece of vulcanized rubber.

The Leipsics. The Boyds. The Keanes. Local sporting royalty.

For that, these boys were put on pedestals at a young age, which no doubt added to their sense of entitlement. Captains of their teams, so-called leaders and role models and, dare I say, heroes in some eyes. This only inflated their egos and feeling of invincibility, especially as they rose through the ranks, with some even reaching the summit of their sport in the form of the NHL.

They were on top of their own little world, able to do and say anything they wanted without fear of consequence. Or at least it appears they thought that was the case.

Now they have been exposed for holding vile, misogynistic and, at times, racist views towards women, which they thought were being privately shared in an Instagram discussion group, only to have it spring a leak and become public for all to see.

Winnipegger Brendan Leipsic plays for the Washington Capitals. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Winnipegger Brendan Leipsic plays for the Washington Capitals. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Their hate knows no bounds, from local targets whose appearances they took great joy in profanely ripping apart, along with talk of sexual conquests and fantasies, to spouses of hockey teammates and rivals, including some of the biggest names in the game, such as Connor McDavid.

In the process, they have brought shame to their families who gave them everything they wanted in life, they have humiliated the communities that supported and idolized them, and they have given a black eye to the sport of hockey, especially here in Manitoba.

Don't think for a second this was an isolated incident. These former golden children just happen to be the fools who got caught.

We make all hockey parents go through a Respect In Sport program, but it's clear players need to start learning some important lessons at a young age. Simply telling them to be careful what they say on social media is not enough. Let's get to the root of why anyone would think it's OK to say these sort of things about a fellow human being, in any setting, in the first place.

"How is it possible anyone could talk about anybody else in that fashion? It's just a massive head scratcher. I'm at a loss for words," a disgusted relative of one participant told me on the condition they not be publicly identified.

"All of these guys in that group should be going to some form of counselling for what they said. They have to think long and hard about how they change themselves. Because you can't just flip a switch."

Translation: Even those closest to them admit this is somewhat engrained in their DNA.

Jordyn Boyd playing for the Portage Terriers in 2015. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Jordyn Boyd playing for the Portage Terriers in 2015. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Unfortunately, some will chalk this up to "boys being boys" who are guilty of nothing more than regular locker-room chatter. Some may even try to paint them as victims. Just look at what former NHL meathead Matthew Barnaby said to his nearly 90,000 Twitter followers.

"Moral of the story...Know who's in ur group chat!" Barnaby wrote before doing what he used to do best — turtling — by trying to walk back his comments claiming he was kidding.

This case, and some of the reaction to it, shows that toxic masculinity remains in a sport that often claims "Hockey Is For Everyone."

We've seen several recent examples, from the likes of former analysts Don Cherry and Jeremy Roenick and former coaches Mike Babcock, Bill Peters and Jim Montgomery all being exposed for abusive comments and behaviour. And now, a shocking one that hits close to home.

Those with biggest voices in the game — I'm looking in the direction of some of the family members of those involved — should be using their platforms to condemn this kind of behaviour. There needs to be a detailed education and enforcement plan drawn up by local hockey leaders, including guidelines for severe punishment if lines get crossed.

In this case, those involved must pay a steep price and be made an example of.

Brendan Leipsic will get the most attention, and likely suffer the biggest fall, because he has the most to lose. Since he is already on his fifth NHL team, this could be a career-ender for the 25-year-old fourth-line forward playing on a $700,000 deal. With no contract beyond this currently paused season and both a Washington Capitals and league investigation underway, I'd say the veteran of 187 big-league games is a long-shot to play his 188th.

Jeremey Leipsic playing for the Portage Terriers in 2016. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Jeremey Leipsic playing for the Portage Terriers in 2016. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Sure, he's got some talent, but who wants to take on the obvious baggage he's going to bring? In addition to everything else, his graphic comments included plenty of reference to cocaine use and partying. Was that just bogus bravado to his buddies, or something else? Alarm bells should be ringing.

Jordyn Boyd, the younger brother of former NHLer Dustin Boyd who was responsible for some of the ugliest, most offensive postings in the group chat, has been out of the game for a few years but was fired from his employment with a local restaurant this week.

Jeremey Leipsic was booted from the University of Manitoba Bisons hockey program on Thursday. Jackson Keane, son of long-time NHL star Mike Keane, could be on thin ice with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks, where he just completed his second season. Both weren't as heavily involved in the 55 screenshots that were posted online Wednesday, but still made offensive comments.

Same goes for Jack Rodewald, a career minor-leaguer currently playing in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds, who has also been condemned publicly by the NHL.

For all the professional backlash they face, the personal blowback may be worse. These guys are going to be pariahs for the foreseeable future in a big small town like Winnipeg, where word travels fast and people have long memories.

They've already been banned from some local restaurants and lounges they frequent including Earls and The Roost. And given the disgusting things they had to say about so many local women, I'm guessing there's a long list of folks who would like to have a word with them right now.

The anger and vitriol and public flogging will eventually subside, but the real moral of this sad story better stick around, or else history is doomed to keep repeating itself.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
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Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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