Listen: How does hockey reckon with an abusive power structure?
"By the time you finish listening to this podcast. It's likely there will be more stories out there about abusive hockey coaches right now as we are recording this and as you're listening to it. The sport is facing a reckoning. It began with the toppling of one of the biggest domino's in the game. Mike Babcock out as coach of the Toronto Maple leafs tonight. Every mounting losses position became more and more tenuous and tonight his reign lean over. leafs nation is over. Mike Babcock was fired by the Toronto. Maple leafs for the same reason. Tons of hockey coaches have been fired before him. His team was underachieving. He might have been a bigger name than those other coaches but still not unusual then. The story started during the two thousand sixteen seventeen season. Mitch Moore had a private meeting with Mike Babcock and the coach asked then rookie to list the players on the team from Best Work Catholic to worst martyr complied not realizing that that talk within show his list to some of the players ranked the lowest and not long after that it became clear. The stories weren't just about Mike Babcock. Major allegations made against Calgary flames head coach. Bill Peters a former. NHL Her Chemo Lou. who spend spend some time with the flames in the early part of this decade calling for his alleged use of racial slurs while they were both part of the Chicago Blackhawks Organization now players ears are saying publicly things that used to be kept behind closed doors at all cost and the NHL in almost every league below it is realizing that it has a problem problem or more accurately that it has had a problem for quite some time? Now the question is what happens next. What did they do about it? What changes changes in the leafs? They've been playing a lot better since they fired the guy who humiliated one of their best players who thought I'm Jordan Heath Rawlings. This is the big story. Jeff Blair is a senior writer at sports net dot CA. He is the CO host of writer's block on Sports Net. Five ninety fan every day. He has covered a lot of dressing rooms ends and locker rooms throughout his career. Hey Jeff how you doing short. I'm doing well you've You've covered a lot of dressing rooms and locker rooms over the years I was. I was thinking about this the other day when the stuff happened with the Chemo. Lou and Bill Peters out of thinking to myself. I ever seen a locker room. I thought something nothing really poisonous and happen. And I think because unbalanced I spent more time around baseball clubhouses than anything else and initially when I started reporting Winnipeg CFL locker rooms is kind of a little different than hockey. I mean baseball. There have been African American players. There've there've been Latino players in baseball has its issues but it's nothing to go on a clubhouse now and see that the white players are in the minority I mean that's just the way it is and the NFL. When I covered it's the same thing and I don't remember any relationship with a manager or coach or a team I thought was particularly toxic? I mean they're examples of tone deafness. But what I think happens more often than not in a lot of these situations is just the manager coach. Whatever you WANNA call it becomes tone-deaf two things? Well why don't you start then by explaining how we got here where it started with Mike. Babcock in the leafs. Yeah there's a couple of things first of all. I'm a little concerned that people are sort word of mixing. Mike Babcock not you but people in general people were kind of going all Mike Babcock and then Bill Peters. Because here's the thing Mike Babcock seems to have tried cried some Caveman Sports Psychology on Mitch. Martyr So tell us about that. Mitch Monitor the first year. The story is now now that everybody's confirmed Mike. Babcock wanted him to work harder. So Mike Babcock called them into his office and said list your teammates in terms of hardest working to least hardworking. And tell me where you'd put Yourself Yourself Mitch. Marna with coach wants to do this so he goes ahead and does that and Somehow and I I don't know when it came out but somehow Mike Babcock doc essentially went to some of the guys that were below martyring. Say Mitch thanks. She works harder than you. You know this guy's dog in it right now and he thinks that works harder than you and the best line out of the Whole Story and God love Mitch. Martin but the best line of the whole story's Mitch Marnie just kind of shrugging and going nobody took it seriously right. You know it's like that's just that's just babs so I mean their stories. You know you can go. God stories about would coaches used to do for motivating players or trying to catch players airs. I Never Scotty Bowman Scotty. Bowman got tired of his team's missing curfew. So Scotty Bowman would go down. And I can't remember which city this went down to the front desk of the hotel and I think curfew was midnight. Went Down to the front desk of the Hotel at eleven thirty gave a stick to the dorm and said do me a favor when the guys come in get them to sign the stick and we'll we're going to auction off to charity so the next day Scott he goes into the locker eight. These are all the guys that showed up after midnight. Their names are on the stick so I mean stuff like that is you know. That's all part of an old school. Coaching you mentality. Whatever you think of it? Yeah it's and I mean at the heart of the the coach player relationship and this and this is why we'll talk specifically about. Bill Peterson Chemo. Lucas IT'S A. It's a point I think people are missing. I mean at the heart of a coach player relationship. It's a power relationship. I'm the coach. I control the most important part of your career. I control your time I control. How many starts you're gonNA make I control? Will how many at bats you're going to get I control if you're going to be coming in the ninth inning. I control if you're going to start back to back games like Then I control. You're earning power. This is sort of at the route. That's the traditional relations traditional relationship. Is that changing it is in the NHL. I find this fascinating because the four major sports in North America all right now if you look at sort of the players relationship to to power in the game the NBA players leak. It just is players are getting lots of money They make a a lot of money from shoe deals so they're comfortable financially outside of what they're earning contract like Shaquille O'Neal didn't spend any money he made playing basketball. He invested all all he lived off. His shoe deals coaches have no power over anybody in the NBA the NFL's you know you're disposable piece of meat. There's no such thing as guaranteed contract. Baseball's always had a very very strong players association. It's Kinda splintered now and I think we're kind of in an every man for himself air but what's happened in hockey is there has been an an influx of really talented really young players and because of the way the NHL 's collective bargaining agreement is setup. You Essentially Ashley. Now have a bunch of guys who were twenty two twenty three or twenty four making eight million dollars a year under contract for five six or seven years and that's the biggest difference to me. Is that players always used to make more than the coach and this is specifically the NHL players always used to make more than the coach. But they've got more term So if you're Mike Babcock and you've got three years left on your contract you've got Mitch Monitor. He's got six years left. He's making ten and a half million dollars a year. How do you? How do you motivate that? How do you manage them? It would take us. Ice Type. Doesn't matter to him take two minutes ice time away from me. I'm getting ten million dollars a year and by the way I got a job here for years down the road and you say that so hockey ocoee more than any other sport I think is is going through. This and hockey is going to half the data and and and the coaches are going to have to. The players aren't going to have to adapt. The coaches are going to have to debt. And this this gets the Bill Peter Situation and and why I think this is particularly vile you know first of all. I mean there's no statute of limitations and racism so I've heard people will make the case. Well he said this ten years ago three organizations ago he wasn't even with the flames. You have somebody claiming that he. He used the N.. Word that he used a racial epithet. You have that player's teammates backing you up. You have subsequent you have players coming out. Who played for Bill? Peterson Peterson Carolina. Saying hey he physically abused me. You have players coming out and saying yeah not only did he. Physically abused Rod brindamour. Not only did he did. He physically abused guys. But you've got player saying oh by the way we spoke. The Ron Francis who was general manager the team at the time and he didn't do anything wrong. There was something but the Akeem loose. The situation is really. I find it really bothersome. Because what was he supposed to do. You know these guys are playing in the American Hockey League They're not making a lot of money. Bill Peters when he was coaching that team the Rockford ice hawks. He held the future in his hands. so if you're a guy like a chemo Lou and you're trying to establish yourself or you're trying to get your career going going to your general manager and writing out your head. Coaches racist is probably not not a good career. Move and I think more than anything else. What this says is that at that time? Ten years ago that organization Chicago Blackhawks. There wasn't a structure in place. I mean I'm not gonNA say that guys don't yell things at each other in the locker room or on the ice and we we know they do. We know that racial epithets unfortunately are still a part of the sort of the on Ice Onfield Dialogue and sports. I don't think this happens now though like if we were rewinding this Chemo Lou had been Ah. I don't think that happens. 'cause he reports to somebody or he goes on social media then and it's taken care of but it bothers me that people are saying that some people are saying well you know ten years ago and nobody else stood up. It's people have to understand Dan that again. This gets to that that power relationship between the player and the coach. There's no way the player could you know what are you GonNa do. You're going to sacrifice your long term financial future because of this. I mean I'm not. I'm not saying that means. Bill Peters is right but hockey I think more than any other more than any other sport just by the the nature of how players are developed. Kids leave home. Kids go to town cities. They're billeted with people dependent on the structure. They are dependent on on the power structure there absolutely dependent on the power structure. And I think maybe that's what has created this culture around hockey the the NHL is really really trying. I think to find a way and I mean the NHL in general teams coaches are trying to find a way to deal with this the new age the players the the ultimate lesson the lesson from hopefully for this whole thing with Bill Peters is that there has to be every organization has to look at itself often say do we have the structures in"