NHL Takes Tough Stance On Racism, Bullying In Wake Of Flames Incident
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league's "message is unequivocal" when it comes to the actions of coaches and management, and they "will not tolerate abusive behavior of any kind," according to Frank Seravalli of TSN.ca. Speaking at the league's BOG meetings in Pebble Beach yesterday, Bettman "relayed the NHL's four-point plan of action" on bullying following the Flames scandal. The NHL "plans to establish an anonymous hotline for players and team personnel to report inappropriate conduct; coaches and management will participate in mandatory annual training on inclusion and harassment; inappropriate conduct will result in discipline from teams, the league or both; and the NHL put all 32 franchises 'on notice' that failure to report inappropriate conduct in the future will result in 'severe discipline.'" Bettman's words "represented a positive step forward for the NHL, but now comes the more difficult and critical part: the follow through." The range of punishment "remains unclear for both inappropriate conduct and failure to report such inappropriate conduct." Everything will be "evaluated on a 'case by case basis,' as it has been in the past." The NHL also "stopped short of instituting a formal policy or code of conduct, remaining the only major North American professional sport without one." Since the mandatory annual training will "only be required for head coaches, assistant coaches, minor league coaches, GMs and assistant GMs, the NHL will determine with the NHLPA whether another customized program should be presented to the players" (TSN.ca, 12/9).
NO MORE: SPORTSNET.ca's Chris Johnston noted Bettman was "unequivocal that a line has been drawn." Where once it was "common practice for NHL teams to circle the wagons and deal with issues internally, that is no longer an option." Bettman: "There will be zero tolerance for any failure to notify us and in the event of such failure, the club and individuals involved can expect severe discipline." Bettman "hopes it is now clear what lines can't be crossed -- 'physical abuse and racial and homophobic language' -- and that over time any grey area will become black or white because of the 'program we create, and its attendant consciousness-raising will help better define what is and what is not acceptable conduct'" (SPORTSNET.ca, 12/9). NHL Network's Kevin Weekes said this is a "huge start" for the league, and when this type of order "comes from the commissioner, it's the peak of the mountain." NHL Net's Jamison Coyle also said it is "nice to see some concrete things put in place immediately" ("NHL Tonight," NHL Network, 12/9).
CHANGING THE CULTURE: Bettman said NHL Exec VP/Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs Kim Davis, who focuses on diversity initiatives, will "form a multidisciplinary council to suggest initiatives, monitor progress and coordinate efforts with all levels of hockey." As the NHL continues to react to the incident involving former Flames coach Bill Peters and former NHLer Akim Aliu, who met with the league last week in Toronto, Bettman was asked if the league has a racism problem. He replied, "We've been very proactive. Our levels of diversity and inclusiveness are the best they've ever been. Unfortunately, there are incidents. But overwhelmingly, our personnel conduct themselves in the appropriate way that they should" (ESPN.com, 12/9).
STARS MAKING CHANGES: The Stars this morning "fired head coach Jim Montgomery ... citing unprofessional conduct." Stars GM Jim Nill in a statement said the team expects "all of our employees to act with integrity and exhibit professional behavior while working for and representing our organization." The statement continued the decision was "made due to unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values" of both the team and NHL (TSN.ca, 12/10). TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL was "aware of the situation" with Montgomery even before Bettman met the media last night, and Montgomery’s dismissal "does not fall under the auspices" of the NHL's new plan (TWITTER.com, 12/10). TSN's Darren Dreger also cited a source as saying that the Stars "really had no choice" but to fire Montgomery and that this is "non abuse related" (TWITTER.com, 12/10).