Hazing the younger players is synonymous with hockey. “Rookie parties,” generally a night of partying where the new players submit themselves to ridicule, are nothing new. Is there an acceptable line to hazing? Is putting on a dress and serving the beers the same as having water bottles tied to your scrotum?
In my opinion, no it is not, and I think that some members of the Neepawa Natives have crossed a line in the newest hockey scandal.
The Neepawa Natives, a team in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, are facing intense scrutiny after a player came forward regarding the hazing he received in the dressing room. The 15-year-old player, whose name is not being released, underwent an apparently normative hazing ritual: he had a water bottle rack tied to his scrotum and was forced to walk around the dressing room while his teammates threw towels onto the rack.
When he came forward about the hazing he received, the boy was suspended from the team. Furthermore, according to the boy’s father, the coaching staff asked the young man to apologize to the team before they would reinstate him as a player.
This was a crucial mistake in the handling of this situation, which has resulted in media frenzy and plenty of negative attention. Had the coaching staff reacted swiftly, apologized, and dealt with the hazing proactively, this blemish would likely not have swelled to its present level. The reaction from the coaching staff seems underwhelming to say the least; however, they probably reacted this way because something similar was done to them during their hockey careers.
Maybe in their minds, no harm was done. New players submit themselves to mockery, and in this case assault, to demonstrate their commitment to the team and other players. To me, it would seem that working as hard as these boys have to reach these levels of hockey should demonstrate commitment.
Hockey is not stagnant and has changed over the years. Keeping with the rational “what worked in the past is fine for the future,” maybe we should stop wearing helmets as well?
Since the scandal and the reaction from the coaches surfaced, there has been reprimand for the Neepawa Natives. The coach has resigned and the assaulted player will be traded. Hopefully, hockey can learn from this unfortunate incident. Hazing rituals have nothing to do with the capabilities of a player, and a past tradition does not warrant its presence in the future.
Otherwise, take off your helmets and enjoy your favorite pastime as it was once was.
Chelsea James is a fourth-year student who wonders what part of hazing makes a hockey player better.