Hockey writing turns into social mores analysis?

So far as one of Canada’s leading sports news website, Sportsnet.ca, is concerned, their country sports fans are a bunch of cry-babies.

Need proof?

Here’s one: a regular story in which an NHL club owner refuses to answer questions about a case of sex abuse a former player suffered while with the organisation, leads with this paragraph of warning:

Editor’s note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be upsetting or offensive to some readers. If you or someone you know is in need of support, those in Canada can find province-specific centres, crisis lines and services here. For readers in America, a list of resources and references for survivors and their loved ones can be found here.

End of editor’s note.

Back to facts.

A former Chicago Blackhawks player alleged about a year ago that he had been sexually abused about a decade ago by the team’s video coach.

This is, of course, a very serious allegation, and, it seems, nobody disputed the gist of it. What was even (and much) more serious was the fact that an independent probe, ordered by the league, found that the club didn’t do much at the time. Team’s management, frankly speaking, didn’t take the abused player’s accusations too seriously. Basically, other than getting rid of the video coach, and that rather quietly, too, they turned a blind eye on the entire matter.

Rolling heads

This was what would cost the general manager his job. This was also what caused several other heads to fall, including that of the former head coach. On one hand, the chap could (and did) prove he wasn’t too much in the loop and the entire affair was above his pay grade, anyway. On the other hand, he must have been (or should have been, critics maintained) aware of some aspects of the situation. Anyhow, the answer to the question whether he really was remains inconclusive.

But still, even though employed by another NHL club, the head coach resigned from his NHL employment. It seems his days as one of the best coaches the league has known are finished. In disgrace, too. And not many believe that he resigned of his own volition. The timing and general sequence of events suggest otherwise.

Why is it the talk of the town again?

Because the club decided to host a town hall to give fans and the media an update about its direction and, more intriguingly, its search for a new general manager. One who would replace Stan Bowman.

The story that was flagged by Sportsnet.ca editors as perhaps too much for sensitive souls, described that meeting.

A few reporters tried to ask questions about that sexual scandal, and Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz suggested they take a hike. With his usual openness bordering on bluntness, Wirtz told a reporter representing The Athletic that how the team is learning from the past is “none of your business.”

The Athletic’s reporter, avoiding asking about sports issues like a plague, while trying to look like a social worker, wished to know what the Blackhawks are doing to make sure that what happened to Kyle Beach doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Wirtz’s reply was quite straightforward: “I think the report speaks for itself. The people who were involved are no longer here. We’re not looking back on 2010, we’re looking forward. And we’re not going to talk about 2010.”

The report he had in mind was the one done by independent investigators. Published last fall, the Jenner & Block law firm’s report recorded a number of Blackhawks’ failures after one of their former players – Kyle Beach – reported that he had been sexually assaulted by then video coach Brad Aldrich during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

The reporter tried to follow up by, basically, re-phrasing his question.

The reply: “We’re moving forward, that is my answer. Now, what’s your next question?”

The heated exchange developed even further, as Wirtz’s own son Danny, now the Blackhawks’ CEO, tried to calm the waters: “I can pick up to what we are doing today.”

Dad would have none of that, telling junior, “No, that’s none of your business.”

He elaborated: “What we’re going to do today is our business, I don’t think it’s any of your business.”

The reporter asked the only logical question: why?

Wirtz didn’t hesitate: “Because I don’t think it’s any of your business. You don’t work for the company.

“If someone in the company asks that question, we’ll answer it. And I think you should get on to the next subject,” Wirtz added. “We’re not going to talk about Kyle Beach, we’re not going to talk about anything that happened. Now we’re moving on, what more do I have to say? Do you want to keep asking the same question, and hear the same answer?”

A Chicago Tribune reporters tried to succeed where his colleague from The Athletic didn’t.

Wirtz wouldn’t budge: “I told you to get off the subject.

“We’re not going to bring up the report… I told you, we’re moving on. I think you’re out of line to ask that line of questions. Why don’t you ask about something else? Why don’t you ask about the GM search? Why don’t you do something else? Why do you bring up old business?”

The Tribune reporter tried to switch subjects, asking about season ticket holders and the ticket resale market, but Wirtz interrupted him even before he completed his question: “I didn’t realize you were in our ticket department. Come on, come on. Let’s talk about all the negative stuff. Do you want to talk about your paper? And what the sports page looks like. Can I do that?”

Nothing new under the sun

These heated exchanges pushed a bit of really interesting information into background: the Blackhawks have asked three of their former star players (Eddie Olczyk, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp) to join the club’s search party that’s looking for a new general manager.

If there’s anything that should annoy those who read the Sportsnet.ca story about this town hall meeting, it should be the fact that the site’s editors underrate their readers to such a degree they give their intelligence a bloody cold shoulder.

Then again, this is the organisation that fired unceremoniously Canada’s hockey icon and one heck of a commentator, Don Cherry, just for the unforgivable sin of saying what he thought.

Of course, the league in question, the NHL, has become holier than thou beyond scandal levels in recent years, too. So, there’s not much to wonder about.

One thought on “Hockey writing turns into social mores analysis?

  1. […] Canada’s Sportsnet.ca found it necessary to warn readers that a news story about an NHL club’s town-hall meeting with its fans and reporters includes […]

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