Sorry I kept all of you waiting! Of course, the one weekend I go on vacation I miss all the great storylines. Regardless, in this edition of Blake’s Takes, I’ll take a look at the league’s response to abusive behavior that has dominated the headlines recently. I’ll also shoot off a few takes about fired coaches and recent player honors.
1. The League Reacts to Abusive Behavior
Last week, I talked in-depth about the allegations made by former player Akim Aliu towards former Flames coach Bill Peters. Aliu reported that he had been verbally abused by Peters and was the victim of racist comments. Those comments encouraged a few others around the league to speak out and share their stories. In the aftermath, Peters resigned and the league had a major issue on its hands. That is how to handle abusive behavior.
On Monday, the league hosted a Board of Governors meeting in Pebble Beach. The league announced that they will take a firm stance towards abuse.
Commissioner, Gary Bettman was very clear in his comments. Saying, “We will not tolerate abusive behavior of any kind.”
Bettman announced a slew of new changes and policies the league will begin to implement. Some of the highlights are:
- All team executives must report all issues of abuse, on or off the ice, immediately to the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner.
- All incidents will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Discipline could be handed down by the team, the league, or both parties.
- The league will create a mandatory annual program that will include counseling, education, and training on diversity and inclusion. This program must be attended by coaches and executives on NHL payrolls.
- The league will create a hotline for players to anonymously report abuse.
I think this is a great start for the NHL. They, finally, went about this the right way. First, they listened. Not only did they listen to the fans and the media in regard to the temperature of the situation. They listened to Aliu, arguably the face of this issue. Too often victims are not heard, and the league gets major brownie points for speaking with Aliu and making changes.
Second, they acted quickly and efficiently bringing forth ideas of substance to the table. None of the bullet points above are revolutionary ideas, but there’s no need to reinvite the wheel. All of these ideas can be executed and a framework can be created quickly to ensure their execution.
Lastly, the league is taking a zero-tolerance policy in regard to this issue. That shows it’s important to them.
Overall, this is a good start for the league. As much as people rag on Gary Bettman, if this program works, it could be a huge part of his legacy as commissioner.
The only issue I’m wondering about is how to handle past offenders. Just last week many stories began to surface during the Aliu firestorm. The league needs to create a precedent on how they plan to combat the bad press that will indubitably come when additional skeletons fall out of the closet. I just hope the league can stay consistent in their stance towards abuse and rid it from the hockey community once and for all.
2. Montgomery Out in Dallas
Bill Peters wasn’t the only coach whose past caught up with him. On Tuesday, Stars’ GM Jim Nill, the same Jim Nill who trashed his star players, fired Stars’ Head Coach, Jim Montgomery. According to a report on NHL.com, Nill became aware of a situation that took place regarding Montgomery.
Nill had this to say about it, “There was a material act of unprofessionalism contrary to the values and standards held by the Dallas Stars organization.”
It looks like someone spoke to management about Montgomery in the wake of the Akim Aliu situation. Considering Montgomery was fired only a few days after management became aware of the situation, it must have been something terrible.
This is fantastic for the league for a few reasons. First, it shows that front offices are changing, or at least paying attention to abuse and acknowledging it a serious issue. Not only did Nill say that he made this decision before Bettman revealed the new plan mentioned above, but he also said that the firing had nothing to do with hockey. Making it very obvious that the Stars took the issue seriously.
It’s also great for the league because it shows that those in the locker rooms aren’t afraid to speak up anymore. Before Montgomery was fired, a few ex-Detroit Red Wings came out and complained about the way Mike Babcock treated them when he was coaching the Wings. Someone obviously spoke up about Montgomery too. This shows that Aliu coming forward clearly empowered players and coaches to speak up, which is something I was worried about when it came to reporting abuse.
Good for the Stars and for Nill to make a move with social justice in mind. Nill said the decision wasn’t hockey-related. That’s not a surprise as the Stars had been surging of late, going 6-3-1 over their last ten games. Hopefully, interim coach Rick Bowness can keep the momentum going in Dallas as the Stars serve as a model franchise in the new anti-abuse NHL.
3. Another World Cup on the Horizon?
The league talked about more than the abuse issue at the Board of Governors meeting earlier in the week. They also talked about hosting another World Cup!
Bettman said that bringing back the World Cup would be a good thing. he also mentioned that the next World Cup probably wouldn’t take place until after the 2020-21 season.
I love the World Cup of Hockey. It remains one of the most enjoyable events I’ve gone to. International hockey is so much fun, and the World Cup provides a way for fans to get a taste of the action without having to travel to the World Championship or Olympics, which are expensive and far away.
Bettman had this to say about sending players to the 2022 Olympics,
“As you know, the League’s view is it’s disruptive to a season. “We understand the importance to the players, but there are a whole host of things that are unresolved, including who would pay for participation and what rights we get to promote ourselves. So that’s something that isn’t on the same track, in my view, as the World Cup.”
If I were a team owner, there’s no shot I allow my players to go to the Olympics. As a fan, I want it more than anything. I would much rather see NHL players go to the Olympics than see another World Cup. But, another World Cup is better than nothing and both tournaments would be even sweeter.
4. Koivu Notches 1,000 Games
Mikko Koivu has been arguably the most underrated player in the league since his rookie year in 2005-06. Koivu recently earned his silver stick by playing in his 1,000th game, all with the Minnesota Wild.
Minnesota’s captain rarely makes headlines, especially since he’s played his entire career with the lowly Wild. I wanted to use this platform to celebrate Koivu and his big accomplishment.
Koivu joined the Wild only a few years after their inception, so he ranks first in virtually every statistical category for the franchise. He’s first in games, assists, points, plus/minus, and shots. He’s also second in goals to Marion Gaborik. He’s also won a gold medal at the World Championship and an Olympic silver medal.
My hat is off to the Wild’s captain and franchise legend. Congrats on your silver stick.
5. Devils Fire Bench Boss Hynes
The freefall continues in New Jersey. Last week, the Devils announced that they had fired Head Coach John Hynes and named Assistant Coach, Alain Nasreddine, as the Interim Head Coach. Hynes was 9-13-4 this year and finished his 4+ year career as the coach in New Jersey with a record of 150-159-45. He made the playoffs once and never finished above fifth in the Metropolitan Division. That’s pretty terrible.
Before this year there were few expectations in New Jersey. The team had minimal talent and just making the playoffs in 2018 was an accomplishment. This year’s expectations were high as the Devils acquired first-overall pick Jack Hughes, superstar defensemen P.K. Subban, and Wayne Simmonds. Many pundits picked New Jersey to make the playoffs, if not push for the top spot with Washington and the Islanders.
I’m not a huge fan of firing a coach midseason. But, last year’s Blues and the 2015-16 Penguins fired their coach midseason and won the Stanley Cup. So, if the Devils think that ousting Hynes can help give their team a boost, I’m ready to watch and see. Thankfully, it’s not like they can get that much worse from here. ■