Bettman talks to Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during an event on Friday. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
Nearly 57 years ago, Willie O’Ree became the first black player in NHL. Today, society is different place — except when P.K. Subban plays in Boston.
“You don’t really notice it too much,” Capitals prospect Madison Bowey, who is black, said when I asked whether race was still an issue in hockey. “Everyone treats you the same. It’s not a big deal anymore; it’s a new generation.”
While race has come up as an issue for more broadly in America recently, it is becoming increasingly irrelevant in sports. Today, the Capitals and the NHL dedicated a refurbished street hockey rink in predominately black Southeast D.C.
Recently, though, questions have been raised how inclusive the NHL really is in other areas. Since August, three national hockey writers have been fired for making predatory advances towards female hockey fans online and via text message.
First it was Harrison Mooney, who left Puck Daddy after it was revealed “Let’s make out. Where do you live?” is not an appropriate way to meet a lady. Then, the hammer dropped on Steve Lepore of Awful Announcing after he asked Twitter acquaintances to pose for nude photos. Finally, Adrian Dater, longtime writer for the Denver Post, was fired after he asked women to send him nude photos over email.
It’s not just confined to media members. Last month, OHL players Jake Marachment, a Kings draftee, and Greg Betzold, were suspended 30 days for making vulgar comments towards women online.
“It’s no secret that hockey is notoriously a white bro sport, white as the ice they play on,” Jen Mac Ramos, the woman who outed Mooney, wrote. “The boys’ club that watches and writes about it is what it is: a boys’ club. It’s men of all spades who get to dictate what the culture is like.”
On many levels, this rings true. Just like other professional sports, the NHL sells a myriad of pink, tight-fitting apparel aimed at women. The Capitals sell a low-cut shirt proclaiming “I like my men on ice.” In some parts of the hockey community, particularly online, women are dismissed as not true hockey fans or not intellectuals.
Commissioner Bettman appeared unaware of the controversy.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said when I described the recent incidents before asking whether the hockey community treats women equally.
“We are the most diverse of all the sports, both in terms of where our players come from and we have a partnership with You Can Play,” he added, turning the conversation from fans to players. “We were the first sports league to do something like that.”
“I think we generally get very positive reviews for all the efforts that we’ve made on being inclusive and diverse,” Bettman concluded.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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