Content Warning: This article discusses sex crimes committed by the 2021 first-round NHL Draft pick Logan Mailloux.
The Montreal Canadiens once were the standard of success and class.
Over the last 28 years, they have lost the first part. On Friday night, they lost the other.
When Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin spoke to the media to defend the indefensible, he was asked a lot of questions from the Montreal media. He was asked about what it meant to female fans. He was asked why he made the decision. And he was asked, by Simon-Olivier Lorange of La Presse, where the line gets drawn to look the other way to help the hockey team win games.
“I will come to the same thing,” Bergevin said. “It is serious. It is unacceptable. It is still a 17-year-old kid who made a mistake, who is remorseful, who wants to improve, who accepts the consequences, and we believe and we’re willing to take the gamble but with the need and support to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
In truth, the answer Bergevin gave was as hollow as the statement he read on behalf of the organization. If the organization, if Bergevin, truly cared about what Mailloux did, they just wouldn’t have drafted him. But they did, on the chance that he will eventually help them win some hockey games. He says that Mailloux accepts the consequences, but what are those consequences exactly? Hockey-wise what consequences has he faced? He is a first-round pick in his draft season.
The Canadiens used to care about their image above everything else. They traded their captain for jokingly flipping off a photographer, for crying out loud. This is an organization that has emphasized French speakers out of respect for the majority of its fanbase, some would argue at the expense of hiring the best people regardless of language.
On Friday, they chose winning over respecting their fanbase. Fans are regular people. Maybe you have cheered for this team for over 60 years. Maybe you just turned on your first hockey game during their playoff run. You wear jerseys, you put flags on your car, maybe you even get the logo tattooed on your body.
You defend your team. You stand up for them when people say they made a bad hockey decision. Or a lopsided result. Or maybe you get mad at them for it.
There is no one way to be a fan, but on Friday night, the Canadiens made their fans do the unimaginable. They put them in a position to have to defend a decision to pick a young man who committed a crime , and could not even bring himself to apologize sincerely enough for her to accept it.
Maybe they will defend it. Maybe they’ll be one of the people I saw on social media asking ‘what you would think if it were your child?’ That kids just make mistakes. Boys will be boys, right?
Wrong. I ask them this: What if the victim was their child? What would they think then? Would they be so forgiving?
Fans are hurt by this. Not hurt in the way you get hurt when your favourite player gets traded. Not in the way you get hurt when your team loses night after night. This is a hurt that goes deeper. This is the Canadiens going to their fans and saying, “We don’t care about you.”
This is the Canadiens making everything they do going forward tainted. They can’t say ‘hockey is for everyone’ with a straight face, even though they’ll try. They’ll probably show some support for women’s hockey, or women in some other way to try to get people back on their side. But on Friday night, they showed their true colours.
This isn’t just a Canadiens problem. This is a hockey problem. That other teams would have done the same thing isn’t an excuse, and it definitely isn’t a good one. Even so, the Canadiens used to hold themselves to a higher standard than other teams.
They chose to gamble on the fact that Mailloux will help them win hockey games, and if that were to happen, the fans would forget everything else.
But for some fans, it will already be too late.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673