The culture change we actually need
There is more to the story of the Maple Leafs latest hire than his handiness with a spreadsheet.
Ink has been spilled and recorders have been filled over Doug Wilson's comments that a culture change is needed in San Jose after the events of the last postseason. You know where I stand on the matter, but that post and that opinion is all in good fun. It's just hockey. In related just hockey news, the Toronto Maple Leafs hired 28-year-old wunderkind Kyle Dubas yesterday as their new assistant general manager.
Twitter was abuzz, as it always is when the Toronto Maple Leafs do literally anything. This was different though -- this was smart. Fired were two dinosaurs who consistently resisted the "statistical movement" and hired is a guy who embodies a lot of what the fancy-stats-nerds love about the game of hockey. That's great, good for the Maple Leafs, good for their fans, whatever.
There's more to the story. Dubas was hired from the Soo Greyhounds, a junior hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League. While there, Dubas did a lot of great hockey-related things; he also played a part in a really shitty real-life-thing. You know, the kind of stuff that actually matters. This story in the Winnipeg Free Press from 2012 should paint a pretty clear picture for you. I'll wait.
Right, so three players were charged with sexual assault and they were, inexplicably, not suspended. That's part of the problem. Equally disturbing is this quote from Dubas from the same article.
Cousins, Fritsch and Petaccio are being treated with similar kid gloves. They are attending a "confidential behavioural wellness program" because they need help dealing "with the stress associated with the charges," according to Greyhounds GM Kyle Dubas. Despite the severity of the charges, the team has not suspended them.
Haha, they need help dealing with the stress of the charges. The stress of the charges of sexually assaulting a girl. That's what Dubas decided was information important enough to relay to the media. It gets...less good.
"The people running the (confidential) program are going to give us the nod of approval when they feel all three young men are ready to be reintegrated back into the team," said Dubas on Sept. 4. "They'll give us the approval on it when they believe the boys are ready... Hockey is not the priority for them right now."
Let me be clear: the problem here is 100 percent the tone of the statements being made by Dubas. These MEN (they are not BOYS, for God's sakes) have been charged with sexually assaulting a woman and are being treated like a couple of teenagers who made the mistake of drinking too much one night and missing a practice the next morning. The concern in this situation is not on the MEN who are accused of ASSAULT -- the concern ought to be on the VICTIM of these alleged attacks.
The charges were dropped in 2013, which I imagine will be of particular interest to some of the less savory portions of the Internet. The point isn't whether or not the alleged assault took place, it's the light, seemingly uncaring way that Dubas handled it. Someone in charge of young men should be doing a much, much better job of conveying the severity of a situation like this.
He's not in control of young men anymore. In fact, there's a very low likelihood that he will be faced with this problem again; but it's part of his story -- it's part of the story. Just not a part of any of the coverage I have read in the 24 hours since his hiring (I'm welcome to be shown evidence to the contrary, of course). I understand this isn't part of the old school vs. new school that journalists want to write about -- and that's fine. That is going to be the main focus of the story; but don't tell me that there's no place for this bit of history to be mentioned along with it.When telling a story, as is a journalist's job, it's important to make it as complete as possible. I feel like the hockey community has failed - again. The culture change needed in hockey isn't the one described by Wilson. There are two culture changes we need:
1. A change to a culture in the locker room and in the organizations that treat sexual assault as seriously as they need to. They're not even close right now as evidenced by the fact that this stuff keeps happening.
2. A change in sports journalism culture to one where journalists do their damn job and tell the whole story, not just the parts they want to tell.
The kind of heart and grit we need in hockey is empathy towards alleged victims, and the resolve to deal with the accused in a manner befitting what they are accused of.
So how about we take a break from celebrating someone who knows how a calculator works long enough to acknowledge the story.
Twitter user @langluy, who is great, had some great thoughts on this yesterday which you can find here.