Welcome to this week’s instalment of Sunday Overtime, a weekly feature in which we talk about the stories that have stuck with us in hockey this week.
(Featured image from the Philadelphia Flyers.)
On Monday, the Dallas Stars fired their head coach, Jim Montgomery.
This was not a “hockey” firing. Montgomery was fired because of “unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League”. Whatever this conduct was, it was not illegal; there are no criminal proceedings to follow. Perhaps I am being unduly cynical, but as the NHL does not have a written code of conduct, I am truly surprised that there is a behaviour that warrants removal, and so swiftly, too. It is not our place to speculate what he may have done, but one thing that I really want to draw attention to is how it’s being reported.
In some circles, this is being reported as something that has happened to Montgomery. That he, somehow is a passive agent in all of this. Whatever Montgomery did, it is important to remember that he did it. He made a choice, or a series of choices, and these are the consequences.
We have recently seen a mini-explosion of discipline, whether it’s been the firing of Bill Peters, by the Calgary Flames, or the suspension of Marc Crawford, by the Chicago Blackhawks. These have not been victimless crimes. They have been examples of racism, of physical abuse, and more. These have been choices made by men in power in the NHL and these have been choices that resulted in the belittling, the undermining or the ‘othering’ of human beings. These men deserve to be investigated and disciplined.
A lot has been made recently of cancel culture, and Robin Lehner spoke about it in the Athletic. I think the point that’s being roundly missed by those who like to wring their hands over this is this: it is not cancel culture to force people to face consequences for what they have done. Maybe it’s a shock in a system that has protected men in power for so long but this is something that every aspect of society has gone through or has to go through: accountability.
And guess what? Sometimes when people face up to what they have done, they become better people. That’s not to say that the tiny pool of NHL coaches doesn’t need to expand beyond men who have carried out physical and psychological abuse. That’s not to say that the structure of power in the NHL needs a serious shake-up. But people can become better and that is, truly, the best case scenario here. It doesn’t undo the damage that has been done to the vulnerable and to the oppressed but maybe it will break the cycle of abuse.
Look at Daniel Carcillo. Having been the worst of the worst, and roundly disliked by opponents and opposing teams’ fans, he has committed to being a better man.
This week, Sidney Crosby, captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins and generational hockey superstar, donated 87 (yes) sets of hockey gear to three youth hockey programmes in Canada.
What’s important is who these donations have gone to: the Nova Scotia-based programmes in question are focused on young Canadians of colour, new Canadians and female Indigenous players.
First things first: this is fantastic. As a gesture, it’s really hit the mark, especially at this time of divide in hockey and in Canadian hockey circles. It’s going to make a material difference to the lives of young people who would otherwise have been unable to play hockey – which is more than just a sport. It is, and should be, a community, and it’s a community that’s struggling.
Allow me to quickly plug Sean Fitz-Gerald’s “Before the Lights Go Out”, which is a fantastic insight into the state of Canadian hockey.
So, what Crosby has done is fantastic but I am a little taken aback at those who say that this is Crosby making a statement about the current state of affairs in hockey. He has done a good thing here and he comes across as a relatively humble person who would rather make his gestures quietly, drawing attention to the communities he’s helping, rather than to himself. To imply that this is some kind of quiet activism might be a reach.
Simply put: activism isn’t activism if it’s done quietly. It’s wonderful to see hockey players being so generous with their money, and with their time. Hopefully, soon, we’ll see them being just as generous and inspiring with their words.
All our best wishes must go to Oskar Lindblom this week. The 23 year-old Swedish forward was recently diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma.
This is devastating news and it comes on the heels of Hockey Fights Cancer month. It has been heartening to see all the best wishes sent to Oskar, from fellow players through the league, from fans of the Philadelphia Flyers and from opposing teams and their fans.
Ewing sarcoma is a cancer of bone and soft tissue that affects children and young people. Depending on stage, it is very treatable and there is a variety of therapeutic options. We know very little about the specifics in Oskar’s case, and it would be wrong to prognosticate from a distance, but we wish him the very best for a full recovery, and we hope to see him back in the NHL as soon as possible.
+1. And now to the shootout.
Hockey isn’t hockey without the occasional surprise bromance.
Nearly two weeks ago, when the Capitals were playing the Sharks in San Jose, the above exchange between Jakub Vrana and TJ Oshie went a little bit viral. Of course it did: it’s adorable.
Not alone did the Capitals ‘discover’ the audio….
… but they also released limited edition t-shirts commemorating this beautiful relationship.
Hockey should be fun, boys and girls and babes, and this season, it’s been pretty heavy.
We should not need incidents like Oskar’s diagnosis to put everything into perspective. Hockey is just a sport, after all; it’s just a bunch of people, wearing knives on their feet, chasing a rubber disc around an ice rink. It’s not that important, in the grand scheme of things.
But maybe it is. Maybe it can bring us together. Yes, that’s a lot to pin on one sport, but we are generally better together than we are apart. Even if we support rival teams, we can be united in our love for this one sport, and we should strive to include a great many more people in the enjoyment of it.