A few days ago, I received a private message from a concerned hockey parent.

It read; “Any chance you could write an article on toxic teammates and the effects they have on the team.”

I proceeded to send them three articles that I’ve written on dressing room culture. The sad reality of all of this is that this type of behaviour is still occurring. The most upsetting aspect is these types of incidents of toxicity are happening now more than ever. Take a few seconds to think about that.

With all of the education, preventable measures and all of the regulations and programs out there, this type of toxicity is still occurring, and many would suggest that it’s not being properly delt with from all levels of the game.

Why the hell is it still happening in our game and other sports?

It’s unfortunate that a lot of people are still scared to voice their legitimate concerns or to report these incidents in the hockey world in fear of the potential impact it may have. That’s exactly why we are seeing a rise in these types of incidents. Hockey’s archaic code is still ever present and even more firmly entrenched in the game. The bullies and perpetrators of these incidents of toxicity are the ones that feel empowered or untouchable, because it’s just how they have operated throughout their path in the game.

Nowadays it’s incredibly rare to be on a team that doesn’t have at least a few bullies on it. Which is awful if you think about it.

Minor incidents of bullying are commonplace in any team environment which is sad to say, but that’s the reality of it. There might be a one-off incident early on in the season, that is handled, and swiftly dealt with, but it’s when things are constantly reoccurring and nothing is being done, ignored or resolved from a team or hockey board perspective, that’s when things continue to fester and ruin everyone’s experience.

Obviously, we can all agree that things need to drastically change, but more importantly the unwritten archaic code and undercurrent within the game needs to change or be removed completely.

It’s unacceptable really, but it continues because everyone in the game is scared, actually their petrified that their comments and proactive actions will drastically impact their son or daughter’s future in the game. You know what, their probably right.

That’s the saddest aspect of all of this. As people ascend within the hockey world they enter a vortex of secrecy which has to be protected and upheld at all cost. That fear is real. The process of reporting an incident shouldn’t be complicated, but it is. People don’t necessarily know who to turn to and are hesitate in who they tell, because of the code and subsequent connections within the hockey’s hierarchy.

Everyone knows everyone, what will they say? How will I be perceived if I come forward? How will this affect our experience moving forward?

Reporting an incident to the coach or association shouldn’t be a delicate or sensitive endeavor. It shouldn’t be a clandestine operation, but in many ways, it probably seems that way. Players and parents are reluctant to share, because of the perceived or real ramifications that may or have occurred to people in the exact same situation. You see that’s the power and control hockey’s archaic code continues to have on the game. Being proactive is exactly what to do, but people are reluctant to act, they’re scared of the “what ifs” and are probably petrified that if they bring attention to the situation, because they believe it will get ten times worse because they brought attention to the individual or individuals responsible.

There’s always strength in numbers, but the code inhibits that on so many levels.

Every time someone speaks up, writes or showcases the dark side of the game a change or shift is made. In no way is it near quick enough, but it’s still moving in the right direction. Forward is forward, even though so many still believe in being backward when it comes the game and its archaic code of silence and horrific culture.

Every person that comes forward and reports incidents are in a way making the game and dressing room a safer place. These acts of empowerment can have a massive cost to their subsequent path in the game. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

You see, word always has a way of getting out.

In some ways the hockey world with all of its secrecy and codes leaks like a sieve. I guess it all comes down to what happens behind closed doors in the board room versus the dressing room.

Decisions get made or they get covered up or ignored. Zero tolerance policy gets thrown around a lot when these incidents occur or get reported, but those are just words not action. Everyone talks about transparency, but hockey culture is galvanized, it’s heavily protected from within.

The games outer layers might appear to be changing, but if you drill down deep the code still exists, still influences and in many ways still prevails. Everyone in the game needs to be more aware and empowered to report toxic incidents that continue to occur. We all play a part in making the game a better place even though the archaic framework and culture is still unfortunately in place.

The question remains, how can incidents of toxicity still be allowed to occur in the game?

How can this behaviour still be tolerated by coaches and associations? The victims of these incidents need to heard, they need a voice. They need action and they are probably sick and tired of hearing statements like this.

“We will handle this internally.”

“Don’t worry we will address it.”

“That won’t happen again.”

“I’ll talk to them, don’t worry, things will change.”

“Yeah, they are misunderstood, that’s their way of showing leadership, I’ll talk to them.”

See something, say something needs to become common place, needs to become every teams standard. Victims of any incident need to talk to their coaches right away They need to report. Coaches need to be made away right away. They need to act and take every incident even if it’s minor seriously. We all have a role in this, we all need to make the game a better place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.