Thursday, October 20, 2005


There's no room for Hazing in Hockey.

The CHL came down hard on GM/Coach Moe Mantha for his inaction in preventing hazing incidents from getting out of hand with his OHL Windsor Spitfires club. (Story Link 1 , Story Link 2)

The league suspended Moe Mantha for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs as general manager and 40 games as coach for the incidents. The team was also fined a total of $35,000.

"The league has a zero-tolerance policy on hazing and the league must make a very strong statement against it," OHL commissioner Dave Branch said Tuesday during a conference call. "Any form of hazing must be eradicated."
What Branch found was disturbing, and he was not impressed with what he saw as a lack of leadership in Mantha, a former NHL defenceman who played for five teams in 12 seasons. Regarding the hazing incident on the bus, Branch acknowledged four players (he refused to say whether they were rookies) were forced to strip and crowd into the washroom of the bus in a ritual known as a "hot box."
There was also the fight between a team rookie and Stars prospect Steve Downey which Mantha and the rest of the team could have prevented or stopped and never did.

IMO, David Branch has done an outstanding job as commissioner. The league has continued to grow proud and strong and he isn't afraid to lay down the hammer with stiff and swift punishments. The NHL offices could learn a thing or three hundred from Branch.

I was once involved in a hazing ritual with my high school rugby team, so I do know how awful of an experience it can be (even if mine was quite tame in comparison to the McGill 'broom' experience). I just don't get these rituals, either. How the hell am I supposed to feel part of a team by getting humiliated? If anything, it made me want to fight back punish the hazers (Which I did in one instance), rather than punish players of the opposing teams. How can you build team unity by pissing off teammates? I never did really ever forgive and forget what happened to me

"Oh, but it's tradition!"

Bullflop! As we know, tradition is a weak excuse for abuse of any kind. If you want to build team unity, go have a steak dinner at a strip club or play Mad Gab. If anything, Hazing is simply a petty ritual designed to make the hazers feel big to mask their own insecurities. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way...

A Quiet Girl provides her own unique opinion on the matter and how this could be a bigger symptom of the 'spoiled athlete':

Hazing is the ugliest side of sports and the aspect of sports I am most ashamed of. It is the side that promotes team "unity" at the cost of individuality, the unabashed, disgusting degradation of teammates and such a pure idea of a sport polluted by such a violent and irrational underbelly. It goes beyond the idea of team unity and cohesion into fucking abuse and sometimes I wonder why they choose to act out this way -- the peer pressure to stick a broomstick up someone's ass cannot be that great. I want to believe that the players are simply under a lot of pressure, away from home and a little too high on the premature freedoms of junior hockey but there are so many of them.

Why didn't ANYONE on the Windsor bus stop them? Why did the coach and the owner of all people allow the future of their team to be stripped naked, humiliated and stuffed into a bathroom? They are playing for a hockey team, not joining a fucking cult. Why is there such a huge need to psychologically break them down like this?!

There is a great price for inaction some times, and Moe Mantha is now paying it. Junior hockey involves parents letting their kids go away for months at a time and they trust the team to make sure their kids are treated in a respectful manner. The coach and manager is trusted to act as a guardian for the kids in many respects, so it's understandable that the CHL would enforce a zero-tolerance policy.

And, according to Mike Toth of Sportsnet, this approach is nothing new.

Back in 1979, I was a 16-year-old rookie attending training camp with the WHL Medicine Hat Tigers. The Tigers were a veteran club and in the early stages of the camp, there were definite signs that life was going to be rough on the rookies. One night, my roommate and I were asleep in the team hotel when a knock came on our door. It was a couple of older Tigers looking to give the rookies a scare by baring their claws. They briefly discussed the possibility of giving us one of the infamous "shaves" that were a big part of junior hockey folklore. But in the end, they satisfied themselves by making off with a bunch of our clothes.

Was I scared?

You bet.

But the next day, coach Paddy Ginnell called everyone to center ice and read the entire team the riot act. With his trademark black cowboy hat and rough exterior, Ginnell had a reputation for being one of the toughest coaches in the league. But to a group of frazzled freshmen, he came off as a guardian angel.

"I've been hearing that some of you veterans have been messing with the rookies," screamed Ginnell. "I'm telling you right here and now that if I catch any of you pulling that stuff, you'll be on a bus back home so fast that it'll make your head spin!"
And just like that, the hazing threats came to a screeching halt.

I expect some forms of very light hazing go on with every pro sports team and their rookies. I know the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning were notorious in Vancouver for having their rookies pay for an expensive team dinner at one of our local overpriced steak houses (it was the wine that racked up the bill). I've also read stories of certain NFL and MLB teams that have their rookies dress in slutty women's clothing on flights. Really, why is there a need to have this form of initiation? If the kid can play in the big leagues, then he has proven that he belongs.

I know that the Red Wings have an expensive team dinner and the rookies pay for it as well.
I'm pretty sure there's also a rookie dinner for the Oilers but that really doesn't bother me; it's a pretty benign ritual when a bunch of rookies making 450,000$ minimum per year have to shovel out a few grand for a dinner. Also, I can actually see it as a team-building type thing. However, violent hazing, and even the milder hazing that Toth went through is completely wrong and has no place in hockey.
Well having no on ice skills I never had to suffer a hazing. But a few my friends played in the WHL and they regaled me with stories of hazing activity this was 20 years ago, where they true who knows. I spoke to another guy the other day he played in the OHL he said that he never experienced a hazing incident. But hey the WHL is the league that had Graham James as a coach so who knows
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