In the same manner that society has evolved from smoking on airplanes and restaurants, the practice of hazing in hockey has ran its course and needs to be eliminated.
The good old boys will respond with "it helps mold character" and "it's all done in fun" but the fact remains that the practice has a way of getting out of hand and can be extremely degrading.
"USA Hockey has a strict no hazing policy. A group of players in Manitoba got caught up in some nasty stuff that was well documented. Things that happened ten to fifteen years ago were looked at as boys being boys," Wenatchee Wild's Bliss Littler once said on the subject. "Today you go to jail for some of the things that used to happen. As far as hazing goes, I think most quality programs do a great job of making sure the players don't cross the line. The problem is that the line keeps moving. Bottom line is if you are humiliating someone you probably should not be doing it. Just because it happened for many years does not make it o.k."
Hazing has been a part of hockey from the beginning. Like helmetless players and bench clearing brawls, the game needs to clean itself up and eliminate the practice.
The junior level of play is considered ground zero for hockey's problem. Young players are away from home for the first time and spend an unusual amount of time with teammates on the ice, at home, on the road and in the locker rooms. The lack of supervision often leads to situations that result of a lack of maturity.
In extreme cases, hazing of the sexual nature can easily lead to criminal prosecution. Considering the age of the players and lack of sexual experiences, many of the hazing rituals serve as hidden ways for players to explore homosexual urges.
Regardless, there are much more productive ways to promote team unity than sexual assault. There are even coaches that encourage the practice as something that builds team culture. I'm pretty sure those are the same coaches that will be out of sanctioned hockey in a few months.
The forced consumption of alcohol is not only very dangerous, but can also become criminal problem. Death is an all too common by-product of alcohol poisoning. There is nothing like attending a funeral to promote team unity...for the players not in handcuffs.
Is it really worth it?
Author: Stephen Heisler
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.
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