FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VANCOUVER, BC (May 12, 2020) – On Thursday, May 7th 2020, the National Hockey League (NHL) released a statement condemning athletes who had engaged in harmful and misogynistic dialogue in a private social media chat group. Stating ‘inexcusable conduct’, the NHL will move to address the matter internally, while certain team’s leadership have already moved to implement strict action to terminate player contracts.
This incidence follows on the heels of similar behavioural concerns with Hockey Night Canada’s Don Cherry and with the head coaches of three NHL professional teams, including the Dallas Stars, the Calgary Flames, and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2019-2020 season. In each incidence strict action was taken by senior management, yet such infractions continue to occur within the hockey sport environment.
Public shaming coupled with a response from the league and team senior management, which can be described as a ‘blame approach,’ fails to address the root of the problem: hockey’s longstanding culture of traditional masculinity. The attempts at providing ‘band-aid’ solutions through sensitivity training, rule provision, and singling out individual transgressions is insufficient and simply drives conversations ‘underground’. This deep-rooted cultural problem requires new, deeply embedded and innovative solutions. It is high time for leagues, coaches,
and associations to tackle this problem in a real and authentic way. We need to take our athletes on a journey to address who they are fundamentally, and how they engage with others with empathy, inclusion, and heart. In doing so, we create an approach similar to restorative justice for players to deeply examine the impact of actions of violence or abuse. By giving these men authentic opportunities to dialogue we create a path to change behaviour that goes beyond blame and shame.
The Men’s Initiative (TMI) affiliated with the University of British Columbia has been researching and conducting programs aimed at creating a more positive culture through its Good Men in Sport (GMIS) athlete and coaches programs. TMI mobilizes men in sport to be positive, generative forces for good. Through exploration and dialogue, athletes learn to navigate complex real-life scenarios, break down the man ‘code’, practice empathy, and talk about sexual consent without being labelled or shamed. GMIS helps male athletes become better men and teammates by improving wellbeing, enhancing team performance, and reducing the risk of behaviour counter to team reputation. We think it is high time for the NHL and for amateur hockey to create a systematic, dialogue- based program to shift the culture of hockey.
Dr. John Izzo, who leads Good Men in Sport says, “in order to create change we need to change hearts. Experience tells us that only a systematic, upstream effort to get athletes reflecting and holding self and teammates accountable will work. Our experience with men in similar cultures is that blaming and shaming may send the problem underground but doesn’t lead to sustainable change.”
We invite senior leaders within the professional, collegiate and amateur hockey environment to adopt new and more positive methods to influence their team development and wellbeing. We invite you to be bold and to promote a culture of accountability and trust.
About The Men’s Initiative
The Men’s Initiative is a non-profit dedicated to enhancing the integrity and wellbeing of men for the benefit of families, communities, and the world. Affiliated with the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine and the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, TMI brings over 25 years of experience working with men in high-stress and high-profile environments including military veterans, protective service workers (police and fire), corporate leaders and athletes. TMI conducts action-research and delivers its GMIS programs to professional, collegiate, and amateur hockey teams, including the Atlanta Falcons, US Military Academy West Point’s Football, Stanford Men’s Soccer, and the University of Oregon.
Director of Engagement