The Outsider

It’s still happening, it shouldn’t be, but it is. Bullying and dressing room culture is still an issue for many hockey teams. Those that are experiencing it no doubt feel like outsiders rather than teammates.

We all hear the rumblings, but we don’t always see the evidence of the culture, all that happens behind the scenes and sadly very little or nothing is being done about it.

Are people deciding to ignore the behaviour or do they even know about it?

Even in 2023, young players and their families are hesitant to report what’s happening behind the scenes. You see the outsider doesn’t want to draw more attention to what’s happening.

Hockey culture and dressing room culture is all about cover up and keeping your mouth shut.

No one wants to come forward and say something and break the supposed code.

Parents that hear the rumblings don’t want to say anything either because they are unsure what that mean for their child moving forward.

Bullying in dressing rooms and overall team culture clearly isn’t being addressed because there’s a sense out there that, “oh other teams go through that stuff, not us.”

That’s a very dangerous perspective to have.

Unfortunately it’s happening to a lot of teams and it’s that perspective or mindset that continues to perpetuate the issue.

Some coaches give it lip service by addressing the issue once at the start of the season or make sweeping statements or check the boxes, “yup we covered that,” but at the end of the day it seems winning trumps everything and that they don’t want to be bothered by that.

The undercurrent of bullying probably looks a lot different than it did four or five years ago.

On elite level teams it mostly happens with entitlement where some players make fun of others for their specific roles on the team. Small pockets of entitlement or cliques occur more readily than one would think. That’s usually where the undercurrent of bullying or what some players would perceive as just friendly ribbing turns toxic especially for the victim.

There’s no question players that are experiencing it feel alone, they are the outsider in a unit that should resemble the strongest bond of them all, a family.

The toll dressing room culture can have on players is truly crippling.

The perpetrators of the bullying or harassment, again which they probably think nothing of know exactly what they can get away with saying or doing and that’s specifically the case if it’s not addressed early on or at the beginning of the season.

One would assume as players climb the ladder that type of garbage would stop, believe it or not by all indications it’s getting even worse at the elite levels of the game.

As a parent, coach, player or even an association, every behaviour that is ignored is a behaviour that will eventually have to be corrected.

Elite Level

It seems elite level hockey and hazing goes hand in hand. It’s all about the code. It’s all about conformity. When will it all end? 

Whenever you have a hierarchy in place you will always have issues with abuse of power.

The veteran versus the rookie, the highly touted rookie versus the “role player” rookie.

Everything that happens behind closed doors stay behind closed doors at elite level hockey or that’s how it seems anyway.

Players truly have nowhere to go, no one to tell, it’s all just a big cover up because many of them feel they can’t trust anyone. No one wants to upset the Apple cart when it comes to the code and dressing room culture especially at the elite levels of the game.

Teams with a winning culture embrace their players, prospects and respect their new arrivals. They monitor the dressing room closely, they check in with all of the players, they address issues right away, they involve everyone, they don’t hide shit or cover shit up, they transparently deal with it right away or as soon as they hear about an incident.

Organizations that truly care about their players promote a culture of togetherness, an open and welcoming room, a trusted team atmosphere.

That’s how you build a winning culture. That’s how you build trust in your room and on your team, not by following some barbaric code that promotes and protects keeping things silent.

It’s still happening, and if you don’t think it is you’re probably avoiding the obvious, just ask your child, they probably won’t tell you, but they are more observant than you think. They know damn well who’s being bullied, picked on, singled out.

For all the players and families that are experiencing it right now, I’m sorry, it shouldn’t be happening. For all those players dealing with this shit, I’m sorry, I know it’s difficult, but don’t let anyone steal your passion and love for the game. Things will get better, I promise you. You might think you’re alone or an outsider, but your not. Talk to someone, talk to a trusted ally on your team, go to the coach if you see it or hear something, you’re not a rat for saying something, it means you’re a good teammate and a leader.

No player should ever feel like an outsider on any hockey team.


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