The following blog is intended to offer some critical evaluations of hockey culture, sporting culture in general, and the role of education and technology when it comes to athletes. This is in no way meant to blame the victim or excuse Logan Mailloux’s behaviour. The victim of any crime, especially when it comes to sexual violation and violence, is NEVER to blame. Anyone looking to parse this blog out-of-context in any way to go viral on Twitter is vindictive, dangerous, and immoral.
I cannot emphasize enough that I empathize with, and support the victim of this sexual crime (and all others) and in no way blame her for the outcome. I sincerely hope she is getting the help she needs and I hate the fact that she has to be part of any of this. I do not agree with the pick, nor am I defending it. I (we) cannot ignore the fact that it happened but perhaps we can generate positive discussion in order to ensure sexual crimes like this do not happen again.
It has taken me over 3 weeks to write this blog due to the severity and sensitivity of the situation and wanting to ask tough questions. Questions are all I have and I do not have a specific solution to prevent it from happening again. Asking uncomfortable questions is the only way to rationally approach solutions.
You Can’t Unring a Bell
It is incumbent on all of us to be the change we want to see when it comes to our athletes, professional and amateur. When Marc Bergevin selected Logan Mailloux 31st overall, he unleashed a firestorm of public opinion that, while predictable, proved yet again how polarized we have become as a society. On one side you have the people demanding blood and vengeance for the reprehensible pick. These people would rather Logan Mailloux never have a chance to redeem himself and want Bergevin fired. These people will have you know that they are morally superior to you and anything you say counter to them is discriminatory to the nth degree.
On the other side, you have the “He is just a kid, we all make mistakes” crowd. This camp is big on tradition in terms of “We did this growing up so what is the big deal?” and “Boys will be boys.” These people will have you know that things are just fine the way they are and anything you say counter to them is misguided liberalism to the nth degree.
After 3 weeks of mulling this over, not to mention being disappointed by the aforementioned polarized extremes, I have 2 main questions that need further exploration.
Question 1: Does this incident prove once and for all that children/teens and social media do not mix?
We have a great deal of PSAs directed at children and teens regarding drinking and driving, driving while high, texting and driving, and the dangers of taking prescription meds that are not yours. Helicopter parents hover over their children at the park and on the sidewalk teaching them that every stranger around them is a murderer and every piece of playground will cause decapitation. We have age limits regarding buying lottery tickets, booze, and legal weed. You have to be 18 to vote, 16 to drive, and 17+ to watch Die Hard (the greatest Christmas movie of all time). We have bulldozer parents who threaten teachers, coaches, and police officers who dare tell their child that they are not smart enough, athletic enough, or moral enough. We have politicians who make promises every four years to take care of the future for our children in order to win the mom/dad vote. In light of Logan Mailloux's crime, where are the PSAs, age limits, politicians and parents when it comes to cell phone use, social media, and the dangers therein?
Tobacco companies are forced to advertise how deadly and addictive their product is, and rightfully so. What obligation do the social media companies have when it comes to sexual crimes such as this? When a suicide or mental health catastrophe is attributed to bullying on a social media platform, where are the outraged politicians and other policy makers? At least we have a solid leader in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Habs fan and champion for women’s rights, to step in. He said he was “deeply disappointed” and that the Habs showed a “lack of judgement” in the 31st pick. Mr. Trudeau, did you show a lack of judgement during the We Scandal, your vacation at the Aga Khan’s private island over Christmas, the SNC Lavalin Scandal, and the Illegal Casino Magnate Scandal?1 Furthermore, your treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould leaves all of us “deeply disappointed”. Using incidents like this to score political points is not only embarrassing, it shows a lack of respect for the victim.
The time is long overdue for actual age restrictions on social media. We need to teach our children, boys and girls, how dangerous social media actually is. We cannot change the fact that Bergevin drafted Mailloux; we can, however, use this as the reason to develop better education as to the dangers of social media. The human brain isn’t fully formed until the age of 25. The last part of the brain to develop, the prefrontal cortex, is in charge of rational thought and awareness of long-term consequences.2
I AM NOT BLAMING MAILLOUX’S UNDEVELOPED PREFRONTAL CORTEX FOR THIS SEXUAL CRIME!
This is a statement regarding age restrictions on cell phones and social media in all children and teenagers due to the fact they are incapable of truly understanding the long term consequences of their actions in general. Technology is outpacing our brains and our politicians are not smart enough to keep up with Silicon Valley. I know many stories of teenagers, athletes and non-athletes, who got into big time trouble due to sharing videos and pictures. Children and teenagers (and adults) are still ignorant to the fact that the internet is forever.
This is not just a hockey problem, but it took a hockey problem to shed light on how dangerous cell phones can be in the hands of teenagers. Maybe this is a wake-up call for all of us who deal with teenagers and children in any capacity, coaching and otherwise, to re-evaluate how we view phones in the hands of kids. Sadly, the vitriol and hate I see from adults on social media doesn’t exactly instill hope.
Question 2: Do we want professional sports to be our moral compass?
The fact that Bergevin had a prepared statement to try and get in front of this pick is proof that he knew something was morally wrong. Geoff Molson then had the gall to hold a press conference at 12:30pm during the peak of Free-Agent Frenzy all while not inviting the Montreal Gazette or TSN 690 to hear him speak. The only reason Molson spoke in the first place was because sponsors were threatening to pull their monetary support. Use any adjective you want to describe the actions of Bergevin and Molson, but “surprising” should not be one of them.
Marc Bergevin is not in the business of humanitarianism or social justice; he is in the business of winning. He will be fired one day, not because of his character, but because of the product on the ice. This goes for all GMs and coaches in all sports. If Logan Mailloux helps the Habs to glory one day, do you think there will be an asterisk next to his name on the Stanley Cup?
The New England Patriots got immersed in many scandals during the Brady-Belichick era3, yet they are the most celebrated dynasty of the modern era. Baseball knew that players were gobbling down steroids in the late 1990s. Rather than step-in and stop the cheating, MLB and it’s players enjoyed massive paychecks while juiced-up sluggers destroyed Roger Maris’ HR record. Tiger Woods destroyed his family, humiliated his wife and was still celebrated for his resilience in his comeback to the PGA tour. There are countless stories of athletes who beat their partners, skip on child-support, commit sexual assault, and drive drunk. The only thing that ends their careers, short of murder, is a decline in their athletic skills. This is why no one is allowed to be surprised by this pick - it is about winning. Bergevin found a way, in his mind, to get a good player before anyone else could, and he exploited it. In doing so, he hurt the victim further and will undoubtedly delay the rehab of Mailloux.
While I find what Mailloux did to be deplorable, I do believe in second chances. The fact that he is a hockey player should not dictate whether he gets to earn a living in the sport due to his crime. By the letter of Swedish law, he did pay his debt to society. Whether you think the punishment was too lenient is a different argument altogether. Being a pro-hockey player obviously casts a spotlight on what he did, however, there are many people in our society who have committed similar crimes or worse and are still allowed to make a living once their debt to society is paid. Does he deserve a chance to redeem himself while his victim suffers a lifelong memory of betrayal? Putting myself in the shoes of the victim’s father, I would obviously want Mailloux to suffer pain the rest of his life. Our judicial system, however, does not use emotion. Rationally speaking, Mailloux has the right to make a living in the NHL; emotionally speaking, it is both difficult and awkward to watch.
The NHL is in the business of entertainment, not philanthropy; they are about capitalism, not compassion. This is another reminder for parents to be the hero in your child’s life. There may come a time when their team or favourite player makes an egregious decision and they need your moral background to cope with it. If you leave heroism up to athletes or pro-leagues, your child will have a misguided sense of values. That said, the vast majority of pro-athletes are hardworking, philanthropic, and play by the rules both during the game and in real life.
An Open-Ended Conclusion
Twitter and other social media outlets are not where rational thought and discussion happens. We need to change how we talk to each other and reevaluate the lessons we are teaching our children. The current culture in hockey and in sports will only change if we start teaching our boys and girls from a very young age about respect for oneself and for each other. Sports will not change in terms of respect and morals unless we do it first. It starts at home and in grassroots sport. Multi-billion dollar industries like the NHL have no reason to change as long as their shareholders remain rich.
Those of us in coaching positions, male or female, have an incredible amount of power and influence in the lives of our players and we have seen this in the most negative of outcomes (see Theoren Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy). These guys will never be the same because of the sexual crimes committed by their coaches. Fleury and Kennedy, however, were able to turn an atrocity into a learning lesson through their speaking engagements and writing ventures. Hockey Canada was forced to reevaluate how they select coaches for our youth and created a great deal of resources and learning opportunities for coaches and players to avoid future sexual crimes against minors. The time has come to create resources and learning opportunities surrounding social media and the dangers therein. Coaching is not what it was 25 years ago. Coaches of today are expected to be role models, psychiatrists, and pseudo-parents in some instances. Because of all of this, coaches must help build solid humans, not just solid athletes, but they need help in doing so.
As adults, we cannot let our personal transgressions from the past affect how we raise the future. Our childhood was vastly different in many respects. What was acceptable then is in many ways woefully ignorant in 2021. It is because we made those mistakes, however, that we are able to help prevent the same from recurring to our own children or the athletes in our trust. We would not want our son or daughter to make the same serious errors we did just because “That is part of growing-up.”
Respect and discipline, however, are time-honoured traditions that should never be questioned; children of all ages need to be taught discipline by caring adults. Helicopter/bulldozer parents and their greedy lawyers need a serious wake-up call as to the difference between constructive discipline and criminal harm. Just because some parents are too weak to tell their own children when they are not good enough right now does not mean a teacher/coach/police officer is committing a crime. Impartial role models (teachers/coaches/law enforcement) from the community can have an amazing and truthful impact on your child if you let them.
What then do we do about the Montreal Canadiens and their epic run from this year? They gave us many thrills and reasons to enjoy life post-pandemic. My blog is extremely negative in some respects and might lead you to believe I am done with the Habs.
Despite all that I have discussed, I believe you can still cheer for the Habs in 2021; just don’t rely on the Montreal Canadiens to raise your son or daughter.
1. Dawson, Tyler.A Short History of Justin Trudeau's Scandal-plagued Liberal government National Post. October 21, 2020
2. Campellone, Joseph MD & Kent Turley, Raymond BSN MSN RN. Understanding the Teen Brain. University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester, NY. 2021. urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3051
3.Bernstein, Dan. A Timeline Of Patriots Scandals: Spygate, Deflategate And Other Controversial Incidents Under Bill Belichick. Sporting News. 01/04/2020. https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/patriots-spygate-deflategate-bill-belichick-timeline