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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Giving second chances in the NHL

Giving+second+chances+in+the+NHL

The role that hockey media plays in the forgiveness of abuse is often overlooked, but their orchestration of redemption narratives is a longstanding tradition and one that is not going to be stopping anytime soon

In the past year, the National Hockey League has been faced with a reckoning where people are finally calling for abusers to be held accountable. While the initial reactions to these scenarios are all filled with outrage and disgust, there always comes a point when the media circus blows over and the attempts at redeeming one’s image begin.

Mike Babcock was fired from his position as the Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2019 in the midst of a losing streak. Shortly after his firing, accounts of him abusing players during his time with the Maple Leafs and also in his prior position as the Head Coach of the Detroit Red Wings came out. 

While abuse was not the reason that he was fired, it played a large part in the fact that he was not picked up by another NHL team in the aftermath.

However, numerous accusations of abuse have not shunned him from the hockey world completely. The beginning of the 2020–21 NHL season also saw the start of his attempted rehabilitation and redemption as orchestrated by hockey media. 

These journalists believe, above all, that an abuser should always get a platform to share their side of the story. Often prioritized above the victims and those impacted by their abuse, the story of the misunderstood abuser is a frequently run tale for hockey media. 

Before the season started, Mike Babcock was hired by NBCSN to work as an analyst on a panel during games. Instead of choosing to bring a fresh voice into the broadcasts, the network decided to instead give an abuser a platform that he in no way deserved.

That was shortly followed by Pierre LeBrun of the sports media company The Athletic writing a story that claimed Babcock was breaking his silence on the issue of his firing. 

What this article served to do was still make Babcock seem like a good guy, one who was conscious of the need for better support for mental health issues and who still saw himself as a great asset to the hockey community.

After the coverage in The Athletic, many other media publications have decided to pursue their own interviews with Babcock and have only helped in contributing to his attempts to clear his image.

An interview with Sportsnet saw Babcock claiming that while he supposedly apologized for the abuse, he still believed that the stories being told were false. The media covering him has only continued to report on what he has been claiming on what happened, ever once talking to the people who were directly harmed by his abuse.

One thing that was suspiciously absent from all of this coverage was any sign of remorse from Babcock. Time and time again he has shown that he does not regret the way that he treated players. If anything, Babcock has spent these interviews still vehemently denying the stories of abuse told by players. To him, it was just the fans and media misinterpreting what happened and making up the abuse. He was just trying to do his job and do what he had to do to make these players better.

Now, Mike Babcock has been hired by the University of Saskatchewan as the head coach for their men’s hockey team. 

His beliefs have in no way shown that they have changed in the slightest, but he is already being let off the hook for his abuse. He is being given a second chance despite having done nothing that would indicate that he has earned it.

However, that is the problem in men’s hockey. These people aren’t required to do anything to earn a second chance, because they are always automatically given one. 

Hockey has a long list of abusers tied to it at every level and at every position, from players to coaches to general managers, and without fail those instances of abuse were always pushed to the side before they were able to do any sort of damage to that person’s career.

For Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, the allegations of physical and sexual assault kept piling up, and yet nothing was ever done to address them. Some of these accusations going to court also did nothing to change the perception of him. Though he was accused by multiple women of assault, it was always brushed aside as a lapse in judgment and a simple mistake. 

Kane himself never seems to take full responsibility for his own actions. The lack of accountability asked of him by the league and by fans have all led to these accusations of assault being nothing more than a footnote in his success story.

He was allowed the opportunity to continue playing hockey at the highest level and continues to be touted as a role model in the Chicago community by the Blackhawks. 

The platform that Kane has been allowed has in no way diminished after he was accused of assault multiple times, nor has his popularity with fans. He is still seen as one of the best players in the NHL and has often been referred to as the best American-born hockey player of all time. Abuse for him was always just a minor blip of the radar that so many have found easy to overlook.

There was no accountability for him to take for his actions because he was never held liable for them.

These behaviors are ones bred inside of the sport, and the media covering it only helps perpetuate this culture of flippancy. They don’t see themselves as part of the problem, because in their eyes they are just doing their job. Whatever has to be done to get the scoop will be done and all ethical considerations are thrown out the window.

Believing that these stories from the sole perspective of the abuser to show how they have changed and how they have grown are necessary is simply wrong. Every time these stories are written, it is the same thing, a puff piece written to prove that the abuser is still a good guy that never shows any sort of growth or acknowledgment of wrongdoing. 

This narrative is tired. Hockey media has always found itself knee-deep in the redemption of abusers, but they refuse to acknowledge the role that they play.

Responsibility needs to be taken at all levels until abuse is something taken seriously by both the sport and media. However, it is not hard to see that the day when this happens is nowhere near soon.

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