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!

Hockey Is For Everyone* (*Mostly Everyone)

During February, the NHL hosted a “you can play” month whereby they declared that hockey was for everyone. One of the prospects in this year’s draft is Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who was raised by two mothers. Nancy and Fran met whilst playing hockey, and had Jaret skating at 18 months old.

Anderson-Dolan is expected to be picked by the second round. He had a 70 point season with the Spokane Chiefs. Whilst at pre-season camp, he was invited to participate in VO2 testing – to measure the ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to muscles. This is usually reserved for veterans, but Jaret, at 16 years old, had a test number in the mid 60s and not a single other player reached 60 – then in his second season with the Chiefs, he hit high 60s which is generally the highest score in the NHL combine.

The player is hard working, eats organically, and studies sport psychology (good lad), and during “hockey is for everyone” ensured his stick was taped with the rainbow pride tape. The entire team followed suit despite issues with the tape being poor quality and breaking some players’ superstitions about their equipment.

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In a sport where trashtalking is the norm, he has faced backlash over his two mothers in the past. Whilst going through the WHL bantam draft, he was told by some teams that they would not take him because of his two mothers. But sure, hockey is for everyone, right?

“I can’t change people’s opinions. If that’s how they feel about it, I’d honestly rather not be in that organization if they’re going to be like that. I’d rather be in an organization with the Chiefs where they support it completely. Maybe that ended up with me falling in the draft a little bit, but I don’t really care, honestly. I’m proud of my moms. I’m proud of my uncles, my aunties, everyone I know that is openly gay. I have no shame about it, and neither do they.”

Good luck to Jaret in the lead up to the draft and beyond. He’s sure to be a great representative of the sport!