You hear about one coach, then another, then another… So far, the names include Bill Peters. Mike Babcock, Marc Crawford and the newest addition, Mike Keenan. It’s not fair to lump everyone into the same category based on things that may or may not have happened, but that’s what’s happening and the stories being told seemingly never end.
Today, former Vancouver Canucks players Markus Naslund spoke of his experience with Crawford, calling him “very hot-tempered” but never physically abusive towards himself. He didn’t denying things happened to Brent Sopel but his personal experience with Crawford he likened more to to his experiences with Keenan, who Naslund said had a different leadership style — one that was often demanding, ugly and promoted treating some players differently than others.
Naslund is glad these issues are being brought forward because there is a lot of these coaches out there and what they’re doing is derailing the careers of some very young, impressionable players.
The NHL Is Worried
It has been reported that all the issues raised in the past week are going to be at the forefront of the upcoming NHL Board of Governors’ meetings and that’s fair. This is not a matter that should be swept under the rug.
Like anything that builds momentum, once the ball gets rolling, it can be difficult to stop. And, while stopping it is the right thing to do if these players were being abused, for the NHL, there needs to be a way to manage what’s out there in the public.
So far, that hasn’t worked. Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger of TSN both reported that the NHLPA has told players that if they have issues with abuse from coaches, to go through the PA’s channels and not just release a story on twitter. In most cases, that’s not happening.
These players want their stories heard in the way they feel it best to tell them. That means social media platforms like Twitter or media outlets, who undoubtedly are looking to prove there are more powers of authority out there that abused it.
GM’s Guilty By Association?
Where this could really get interesting is where the buck stops. Ron Francis already felt the need to make a statement about his time in Carolina as GM while Bill Peters was his coach and there are allegations current Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland knew about some of the things Mike Babcock was doing but covered for his coach.
Even today, there are a lot of fans, players and influential people saying this has already gotten out of hand. Just this week along, I’ve heared phrases like “turn in your man-card” or “might as well join a ringette league” uttered. Frankly, it’s amazing that the people who say those things don’t realize they are part of the problem.
I’m not suggesting every GM should be examined and reviewed every time one his coaches is accused of doing something inappropriate, but this is tightrope that the NHL will have to carefully walk.
Should managers be held responsible if they felt they dealt with the instances in the proper manner and handled things internally? Is it even up to them to monitor every conversation that happens between player and coach? If so, who isn’t attached to all of this?
No doubt, the coaching culture needs to change if verbally, emotionally and physically abusing players is how things got done. But, there’s also a sense that people need to understand challenging players, being hard on them when they make millions of dollars to produce every night, and expecting their best is acceptable.
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