Hockey Is For Everyone* (*Or is it?) (Are we seeing a pattern here yet?)

The battle for the Western Conference Championship is in full swing and things are getting nasty – of course they are, the Ducks are playing. Nashville’s Ryan Johansen has had a pop at Ryan Kesler saying “his family and friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that“. Beats me! What’s more, in game four, captain Ryan Getzlaf shouted a homophobic slur at the referee “f*cking c*ck s*cker”.

Maybe it’s not as bad as what Andrew Shaw said, maybe it’s not as bad as other things that have been tossed around the league that haven’t been captured on camera, but it’s not a sliding scale. None of these are acceptable. Getzlaf was fined the maximum $10,000 – but that’s pocket change when you’re on a $9.25million salary per year. The money will go to the NHL Player’s Emergency Assistance Fund which supports players and their families who are facing financial hardship as a result of various reasons such as failing health or salary mismanagement.

For a league that puts a lot of emphasis on hockey being for everyone, they are not doing enough to drive homophobia out of the league. Rainbow tape on a stick one month out of the year is not enough. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t do that much in the grand scheme of things. Getzlaf isn’t going to be ostracized by his team or the league for his comments; he’ll continue playing and continue receiving sponsorship deals because he’s a good player, a captain, and a gold medalist. He gets a free pass.

Know how to stop players from saying offensive remarks? Fine them. Ban them from games. Ban them from playoff games. Then they’ll learn. And for all the arguments that he didn’t mean anything by it, he was in the heat of the moment, it’s an emotional game – that vocabulary exists in his vernacular. Receiving a fine is not enough to stop that behaviour. The league needs to drive home the lesson that winning is less important than being a decent human and not treating others like crap.

Maybe Getzlaf wasn’t targeting the LGBT community – he just said something that happened to be homophobic because he was pissed off. And that’s fair enough. The words slipped out with no particularly malicious intentions behind it. But the fact remains that these slurs are heard day-in-day-out by non-heterosexual people who face  being bullied, beaten up, or murdered just for who they love. Right now in Chechnya, Russia, gay people are fleeing the area in case they are detained and tortured. But hey, it’s just words and hockey is for everyone!

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