Around the League

On Andrew Shaw, and making hockey a sport where all are welcome

andrew shaw
Photo: Getty

Yesterday the NHL suspended Andrew Shaw one game, fined him $5,000, and mandated sensitivity training for his use of a homophobic slur during Game 4 of the Chicago Blackhawks/St. Louis Blues first round playoff matchup. With regards to the suspension, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said, “While Mr. Shaw was apologetic and remorseful for both the offensive comments and the inappropriate gesture directed at the on-ice officials, he must be held accountable for his actions. The emotion of the moment cannot and will not be a mitigating factor for the conduct that is expected of an NHL player.”

I wanted to address this incident because I did not want to remain silent and have that silence misconstrued as any kind of ambivalence or apathy. What Shaw said was unacceptable on a basic societal level, and more specifically within the context of our beloved game. Shaw’s transgression concerns all of us because the hockey community is something shared that we are all stewards of, and if anyone in our community is made to feel unsafe or unwelcome we are all in some way responsible. I’ve always found joy, meaning, and at times refuge in the great game of hockey, and it pains me to think that a love of hockey might be foreclosed for some because of the words or actions of another.

There are of course those who will make excuses for Shaw’s use of the slur, although it should be said unequivocally that there is no excuse. The notion that it is a common occurrence in the game of hockey, and that Shaw is only being penalized because he was caught on live television should be cause for alarm, not inaction. The idea that it’s only a word is equally invalid, because the words that we use matter, and the ones that subordinate the basic dignity of any individual enable further acts of violence and hate. Legal discrimination, violence, and prejudice cannot exist without slurs and the ideas behind them, and we should be concerned with words just as we are concerned with actions.

Most odious however is the idea that efforts to scrub homophobia and other forms of prejudice from hockey are simply “PC” culture run amok. It’s not “PC” to extend the same dignity society conveys on you to others, it’s being a decent human being. Others may face daily challenges or hardships that you may not, and rather than adding to those hardships we should seek to alleviate them where possible. There are no “rules” per se, but instead a much more simple choice as to whether to respect the basic humanity of others. I would hope that the choice there is obvious.

The point to all of this isn’t to make anyone feel bad or wrong, but instead to make plain that homophobia, or any form of hate, has no place in the hockey community. What are words or jokes to some may be of deep impact to others, and it is not up to us to decide when we’ve hurt another. Hockey is a great game, and a welcoming community to many, and it’s my hope in writing all of this that we can come together and hold each other to a higher standard. This isn’t just about homophobia, because I’ve seen fans at games specifically picking on women, or shouting racist things. It’s about respecting others on a basic, existential level, and making hockey a home to whomever wants it to be. Whether you’re at the game, a bar, or watching with friends, try and make people feel welcome. Someone did the same for you.

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  • Well said, Pat. I’ve heard plenty myself both while playing and attending games. Hockey exists in the context of a society which is in transition when it comes to acceptance of differences. There has been progress for sure, but with progress comes backlash. It will take more stances like this at all levels of the game to continue to adjust norms toward greater acceptance and respect for the dignity of those we consider “other.”

  • When I first heard about Shaw making these comments, my first question was ” is he calling Cindy these names”?

    On a serious note, there really is no place, either on, or off the ice for this behavior, period !!!!!!!!!!!

  • I think Shaw should be disciplined for verbal abuse of the Ref, nothing else. I am coming at this from a constitutional angle of Freedom of Speech. That core constitutional right especially covers vulgar, vile language, as much as we loathe hearing it or seeing it from another person. I commend Pat for making clear what he thinks of it, yet from a society standpoint, restricting free speech actually promotes more bigoted people, oddly enough. I am not a constitutional scholar but I’ve needed to research this matter thoroughly. There is substantial, objective data which indicate the more free societies are, the more progressive they are; the more compassionate they become, etc…In fact, it is analogous to hockey in a small sense. Within a sound legal framework that gives people lots of freedom, we tend to govern ourselves better than imposing numerous laws targeting specific behavior. This is not too different from the logic that hockey players are best at policing themselves, and some rules which take that out of the game have led to more egregious penalties. In short, imposing more laws, fines, suspensions for targeted behavior/language is a very slippery slope. Dictators love societies which allow this.

    Anyway, that’s my non-hockey perspective. Kudos to Pat for his article and taking a stand.

    I’d like to also state my obligatory complaint that McIlrath ought to be playing each night, thank you very much!

    • Agree with your esoteric analysis of the implications of free speech and constitutional rights, and the ramifications of removing those elements from a democratic society. That is, from an academic standpoint.

      Hockey (professional sports) are not a microcosm of society, though, and should be held to higher standard than that of common citizens. Simply because of the influence players have on children. Kids hear this kind of stuff and repeat it in school. Players should be expected to act decently. The constitutional privileges which are inherent when they show up at the rink take a back seat when they put on the jersey.

      • Kids repeat what is heard at home and in their social groups

        look to the parents first before we go full on censorship.

        And regardless of the message or how it was delivered, last I checked we had freedom of speech.

        I’m in no way condoning or supporting his use of the word. But where do you draw the line? And how far are we willing to go to suppress that message.

        True diversity only happens when it is both globally accepted and completely transparent. Shaw is a symptom not a root cause.

        Sensitivity training yea. Game suspension no.

        • Check the NHL / USA Hockey rule book, slurs/insensitive gestures of any type are subject to penalty. The “racial” category is included in the rulebook. Homophobic, I can guarantee you, is on it’s way.

          Flagrant slurs/gestures don’t really have a place in the game. Written in the rule book- Game misconduct for a racial slur. Game misconduct for spitting (on someone, I’m sure). It’s on black and white.

          The line to be drawn is pretty simple. Sh*t-talking/gestures will never go away on the ice. I’m not on a crusade to make it go away. But if a tv camera catches you making an indecent homophobic gesture to another player, then get ready for a fine or suspension. If not, and the NHL shows it condones that stuff, it finds it’s way into living rooms all over the place and the sport gets a bad wrap. Bad PR, isolate part of your viewership, sales go down. NHL doesn’t want that so they will fine/suspend. And they have every right to. They’re a private org.

      • Hockey is part of the general category of “Sports” and sports is as integral microcosm of society as almost any other sector.

        Nothing should take back seat to the constitution; otherwise, you may very well find some political leader out there deciding you should take a backseat to something you very much disagree with.

        Parents should parent. There are quality ways for them to educate their children who observe poor behavior in others. Too often, we want laws to do our jobs as parents.

        My view only.

        • So is your place of work. You can’t be going around calling people ‘fa***ts’ for standing in front of the water cooler. That is grounds for termination with cause.

          If you live in a state where weed is legal, you can still be drug tested and fired by your company. Double standards, or ‘higher’ standards exist everywhere.

          The NHL is an employer, they can absolutely fine/suspend someone for behavior which is “allowed” by your constitutional freedom but is pretty much universally agreed to be indecent/demeaning. The argument doesn’t carry over the public/private threshold.

          And again, I fully FULLY support the notion parents should parent and that is where the building blocks start when it comes to kids. Not laws. We will never eradicate all of these non-decent behaviors and the parents play a pivotal roll in filtering things in their household. The thing is here, we aren’t talking laws. We’re talking about a private entity that has every right to hold it’s employees accountable for a higher standard than the bare legal minimum- because again- the influence they have on kids. We all want good role models. Let’s not get caught up in the academic precedents and use the constitution as a defense to say/do things which are indefensible on our collective moral compass.

          • Have you ever listened to what is stated on the ice by NHL players?

            Did you see Nazim Kadri threaten to cut the head off a player this year?

            Did you hear Avery say to the ref he needed to do something otherwise he was going to kill the player right there on the ice?

            If you can’t see the double-standards, I cannot help further understand my point.

            I respect your view, but I differ.

          • Yeah man, I get it. The difference is the whole tv camera thing. The league’s hand was forced. And I’ve got no qualms for the suspension given the distastefulness of the offense.

    • The Constitution gives Shaw the right to say what he did, and he can’t be put in jail for it. But nowhere does it say that his employer (the NHL) can’t punish him for it. Shaw’s comments violated the moral standards of a compassionate, inclusive society. The word he used is associated with a history of hate, oppression and violence against members of our community who are gay. It is unacceptable and Shaw should be held accountable. NHL did the right thing (for once).

      So, do you guys think that ESPN was wrong in firing Curt Schilling? Did they violate his Constitutional rights?

      • I never stated the NHL cannot do what it did.

        I stated Shaw should be discipline for verbal abuse of the ref, only.

        There is a big difference.

        • You are completely missing the point. He should have been disciplined for hate speech, which is what he did. “Verbal abuse” is a lame way to cover up what is the true offense here.

  • While the league has every right to run their business the way they want and it’s not a slur I care to use(nor the Cindy crap), what happened to the concept of sticks and stones?

  • I think everyone needs to stop getting their panties in a bunch.

    Fact. Both predominant slurs , n and f word are used colloquially by both respective population stratas.

    Do you know where I hear those words most. Used by those same people.

    If it was completely derogatory planned and used to shame someone. The. I would take offense.

    But it’s the middle of a game. It was not meant to be as people are taking it.

    I mean if your gonna suspend people your gonna have a LOT of suspensions.

    You don’t crush it’s use by atracking individuals you get it out of the common vernacular.

    Are they going to start suspending people for using French slurs and profanity when hey play in Montreal?

    Hell no. But your gonna go after shaw because he said something someone somewhere might find it offensive.

    My point is. Real homosexuals don’t get bent out of shape by these slurs. It’s the rest of us oversensitived to it.

      • Not at all.

        common vernacular uses racial slurs as a sort of term of affection.

        I.e.

        calling my mates honky. They know and I know I’m not hating on them. I’m loving them.

        Same thing when people say my n****a

        or oh my god I can’t believe he said that. That’s so g*y.

        Context, intent, and meaning all need to be seen collectively otherwise your just as bad as the people that want to censor television of all “impurities”

        It’s goes both ways. Don’t be so dogmatic.

        • Much needed perspective, Mikeyyy.

          I offer my favorite quote by the outlaw lit figure, William S. Burroughs–also a gay man in an era when it was neither chic, nor safe–“We intend to destroy all dogmatic verbal systems.”

          I imagine Burroughs would have become thoroughly disgusted by how PC our society’s become.

      • Chris Hine needs to go to the corner of the room and have a talk with himself. Seriously.

        He implies Shaw underwent a thought process that led him to believe it was “ok” to say what he said.

        The fact is Shaw is an intense hockey player who is neither homophobic or bigoted, and his emotions got the better of him.

        Who amongst us have never said something we subsequently regret?

        Discipline the player; don’t make this into some PC, gay issue, and certainly do not demonize the player to advance what one may think is a worthy goal. The ends NEVER justify the means.

      • So one gay reporter says it hurts his feelings and we are supposed to bend over?

        How about the rest of the gay population that don’t care and actually use it as a term of endearment.

        There is no uproar in the lgbt community. I know because 3/4 of my friends are gay or lesbian. If anything they are laughing their asses off at all of this.

        They want the violence and removal of rights to be true center of attention not someone’s use of a slur.

  • Shaw gets 1 game and $$$ for name calling, Letang gets nothing for his 2 handed baseball swing to the face of Victor Stallberg ( now missing 4 teeth) , league said it was accidental, take a look at the replay, and watch Letang’s facial expression as he delivers the hit to the face. The guy swung like he was chopping down a redwood. Pittsburgh gets preferential treatment on calls because of Cindy.

    • Yeah, that was nonsense. Letang did exactly what he intended to. NHL got that one wrong. Very wrong.

    • this is the downside of allowing “double standards” it’s very dangerous to a society on the broader, important issues of Free Speech.

      Discipline Shaw all day long; just don’t make this an issue that it isn’t

      Shaw is neither bigoted or homophobic. He is an intense hockey player who lost control of his actions and expressed his frustration poorly

      • Absolutely…. but who here is drawing conclusions on Shaw? No one is calling for his head, just commending the NHL on the suspension.

      • How do you know that he is not bigoted or homophobic? Since I do not know the man personally, I need to judge him by his actions. He used a bigoted and homophobic slur…

  • btw, for the record, in no way whatsoever is Andrew Shaw bigoted or homophobic.

    some will use this incident to state otherwise and that is also very wrong.

    again, restricting free speech is a slippery slope. it has ramifications very detrimental to people and societies at large

    • I agree that “restricting free speech is a slippery slope”. However, I also believe that an organization such as the NHL has every right to enforce its own standards of behavior within the group. It’s exactly the same as workplace behavior being regulated in an office. His right to speak freely is not being restricted in a legal sense (i.e.: he faces no punishment from the government), but his behavior while performing his job is expected to comply with the norms of his workplace, the rink.

      • Right. Athletes are subjected to their respective league’s Personal Conduct Policies (as many of us are in our own respective workplaces), which is completely different than the First Amendment.

        AD’s missing the separation of the two.

        • Maybe I am missing something; but did you guys see that I’ve advocated for his discipline for verbal abuse of ref?

          there is no need to make this an issue about gays, because it isn’t

          but maybe i am missing something; all good, please explain if I am

          • You are missing something. @RangerMom tried to explain. You didn’t want to hear it…

  • As much as I agree to the insensitivity, I also think we are making people weaker with actions like this. You can call me any name in the book and it will not effect me because I choose my feelings. This type of actions are making us weaker. Also let us not forget freedom of speech. Yes that means everyone has the right to express themselves not just those who agree with you. This is something liberal minds tend to forget.
    If the human mind gets sheltered then it gets weak, ineffective and set up for failure. Manners is in question here not rights.

    • Shaw can say/do anything he wants as a citizen. As a Blackhawk, his actions are held to a higher standard and rightfully so.

      Go do what he did at work and see if you still have a job. Freedom of speech has it’s limits.

      • Good points.

        I wonder how the Hurricanes do it.

        You know nhl inclusiveness and yet you get carded to use the can. Make sure your not a transgender person useing the wrong restroom.

        Since it is state allocated land transgender people need to use the restroom that is assigned to their drivers license not their birth certificate.

        Ah the duality of the nhl. Can’t say f*g on the ice but we can definitely go and allow our fans to be categorized and singled out for being themselves.

        Bunch of hypocrites. Not you guys the nhl.

      • There have been things said to me in the past as a straight man….that were considered insensitive. I laughed it off. You do not have to be gay to get the same kind of insensitive remarks. There is your hunch

        • Yeah, but I’ll bet you were never beat up or threatened just because you are straight. Gay people still live in fear in many parts of the country and the world. And I’m sure a locker room is not a comfortable place to be. Language like that –whether intentional or not — needs to be removed from the game.

        • Roger that, Leatherneck.

          In particular I fondly recall the “insensitive remarks” shot my way by the nonwhite cellmates who welcomed me to jail back in ’99: a volley of verbal abuse-hate-rape threats.

          Damn if I didn’t remember to call the ACLU.

    • Thank you, Leatherneck.

      Your salvo prompts my anecdote on matters of (not so) Free Speech…

      In my 20s I worked for Larry and Althea Flynt as an editor, liaising with the likes of Terry Southern, Charles Bukowski, Dr. Timothy Leary, investigative reporter Murray Waas, among others.

      After leaving Hustler I went freelance. On a Rolling Stone Magazine assignment in ’96 I traveled to Marine Corps Air Station/Yuma.

      Once on base, I met Colonel Cooney, who sat at the end of a conference table. He looked over my prescreened c.v. and published clips.

      Suffice to say, before me was nothing less than a samurai class/21st- century warrior. He was the personal embodiment of Colin Powell’s Overwhelming Force Doctrine. Educated. Voluble. Kick-ass.

      Cooney then leans in, his half sneer punctuated by hard eyes, “You worked for Larry Flynt?” Then, with discernible sarcasm he added, “… Good American.”

      I then leaned in myself. In nanoseconds it dawned that as much spine as resolve needed to be displayed by this journalist if I wasn’t going be steamrolled by Cooney, like a kangaroo rat beneath an M1A1 Abrams main battle-tank.

      “Yes sir,” I responded. “Regardless of your take on Larry Flynt’s values, morals, what-have-you; the man gave up his spine for The First Amendment. I don’t know too many Americans who’d make that sacrifice.”

      We got along pretty damn well after that. Cooney went so far as to put me in a doorless Blackhawk for a flyover of his training ranges.

  • The NHL is a business first and the players and coaches are employees. The NHL has a standard of conduct for their employees that is well known by said employees. Given the NHL’s push of You Can Play over the last several years, I’m sure Mr. Shaw knew it was a no-no when he said it. Given social media these days, no corporation wants a pr nightmare on their doorstep when they have spent countless hours and dollars trying to change their public image. The corporation simply nipped the problem in the bud. Freedom of speech is a right. Being employed by the NHL is a privilege.

  • If your kid calls you or someone else a horrible name/bad word, do you punish him/her or shrug it off because, after all, there is that whole “freedom of speech” thing? If anyone thinks for one minute that the “freedom of speech” referred to in the constitution was put there to allow people to be rude or racist, or downright ignorant, there is no hope for society.

    • Can you cite specifically who is advocating “shrug this off” ?

      did you not read the opening sentence where i stated Shaw should be discipline dog verbal abuse of ref?

      your comment loses all value when you argue a point that was never made.

      shrug it off, geez…i couldn’t have been more clear

      but this is where we are at, i get it

      • I wasn’t referring to your message or any other one “specifically”. In fact, I hadn’t even read yours or replied to it, so I don’t know why you are saying, “geez, I couldn’t have been more clear.” My only point was that there is no excuse, including freedom of speech, for being rude.

  • Well done, Pat. A very eloquent and moving piece of writing.

    While I’m not a Constitutional lawyer, I do feel the need to weigh in on the free speech concept. The First Amendment provides for a fundamental freedom to speak your mind and be entitled to your own thoughts and opinions. The misconception I find here is that right is enforceable against the government and no one else.

    Recently, people have fallen back on the free speech argument to justify spewing hateful garbage under the guise of “exercising their first amendment rights” and advocating for the straw man of “the hyper-PC culture” we currently have today. This concept is ultimately irrelevant to the Shaw situation.

    Hockey is and probably always will be a niche sport. Its culture is unique and it has been and should be a goal of the hockey community to an inclusive one. Gay players shouldn’t feel threatened about being who they are when they are at the rink, nor should they feel their existence can be marginalized by using homophobic slurs to “chirp” an opponent. Players will always jaw at one another, but there is a line, and Shaw crossed it.

    Nothing about free speech means that you can say whatever the hell you want without consequences. The NHL is an employer, an ambassador, an extension of the fandom of millions of people. The way they view and punish conduct is very different than riot police shutting down a protest. It is their responsibility to make sure these athletes conduct themselves with class. It is necessary for the role that sports play in American culture and their brand, as a whole.

    You may not have a problem with what Shaw did, and that is your right. However, to say that the NHL is out of line to bring their players’ conduct in line with the leagues’ value system, is essentially attempting to rationalize what Shaw did as acceptable behavior, as it applies to everyone. That, I cannot get behind.

    • Awesome take, Justin. Exceptional summary which very much resonates with my viewpoints. Well done.

    • Can you tell us specifically which poster stated “the NHL is out of line to bring their players’ conduct in line with the league’s value system”? Because I have not read that anywhere. And I certainly did not state or imply that.

      • Saying that Shaw should be punished for “verbal abuse of a ref” instead of calling it what it is — hate speech — and then saying that it’s a “slippery slope” for an employer to punish an employee who engages in it is what a number of us are taking issue with. As many of us have said, Shaw had a right to say what he did and will not go to jail or serve any government punishment for what he said. (That’s a free society.) But the NHL has every right — some would say a duty — to punish him for it because it is against the code of conduct of the league.

          • i am just repeating your own words back to you and pointing out that I disagree.

          • but this was the question; don’t obfuscate

            Can you tell us specifically which poster stated “the NHL is out of line to bring their players’ conduct in line with the league’s value system”? Because I have not read that anywhere. And I certainly did not state or imply that.

          • Obfuscation: to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy.

            Yup, sounds like what you’re trying to do by insisting I answer a question that has nothing to do with the points we are discussing.

      • You are implying that the punishment shouldn’t be related to Shaw’s homophobic slur, that it should be contained to verbal abuse of the official.

        I obviously can’t speak to whether Shaw is a homophobic or bigoted person. However, you are taking the position that this issue has nothing to do with gays, and to that point I take exception.

        There is no argument that the term Shaw used has historically been a derogatory slur toward the homosexual community. Neither of us can speak to his intent or framing of the word use, but his actions and conduct imply prejudice. Why would we analyze the situation as if it had nothing to do with the inferred target of his actions?

        This is also not a free speech issue. No state or federal entity is attempting to police Shaw’s conduct. There is also no double standard. All actions that violate the NHL’s on-ice rule book or code of conduct should be addressed accordingly. You can take issue with the league’s response to these actions, but its not as if one is officially condoned and one is not.

        • Well, I can speak for Shaw and he is neither homophobic or bigoted.

          I am very much taking the position this has nothing to do with gays. Take exception all you want, you are wrong.

          This is a behavioral issue in my view, and that is why Shaw should be disciplined.

          • How in the world can you speak for Shaw? Unless you and Pierre Maguire are at his house for family BBQ’s you are speculating and rationalizing the situation to fit your view of it.

          • AD-

            Whether or not Shaw had gays in mind when he committed the offense is irrelevant. The words are the same whether he actually hates gays (I don’t think so) or doesn’t actually hate gays (I’d surmise).

            In the context of a ref getting a call wrong, and him yelling out “you fu*****g fa****t, open your eyes” (or whatever he said), his words demean and denigrate an entire community in the same way. We all hear the words in the same way.

            Without knowing Shaw, I agree with you in that he probably didn’t have any hate towards gays in mind when he made the comment. I’m embarrassed to say I’ll yell similar things in my weekly mens league games on a regular basis in the heat of the battle. It doesn’t make it any more ok. So I fully can relate to the battle your waging on the notion of the offense being behavioral rather than fueled by hate.

            Again, REGARDLESS, it doesn’t matter and his actions were wrong. He was rightfully punished. Not sure what there is left to say. The less of that kind of behavior, the better.

  • The First Amendment prevents imprisonment based on freedom of speech. You can speak your mind without fear of being thrown in jail.

    This does not prevent your employer from firing your ass for being an idiot. It does not prevent people from criticizing you. It does not prevent people from showing you the door.

    • all true Dave

      Avery was an idiot when he threatened to kill a player, and nothing was done.

      do you really believe what Shaw said to the Ref is worse than other things hockey players say to Refs which go unpunished? Give me a break, really.

      do people not understand you can discipline a player without making this into a social issue? because it isn’t. if you or anyone disagrees then you are all using and manipulating Shaw for some personal agenda which may be worthy, but the ends do not justify the means They never do, not here, not in any free society.

  • I think the other part of this is that the slur was directed towards an official and we know how the league has to take care of the refs/linesmen.

  • andrew shaw calls someone a name……..sticks and stones….gets suspended

    kris letang commits felony aggravated assault …….with a weapon which on the street might get jail time ……nothing!!!!!!!

    moral of the story………hit the opposing team in the face with your stick ……

    the nhl is a joke……..i hope kreider or mcilrath or nash or glass plasters letang to the boards and then gets jumped by the team ala derek sanderson when he played for the bruins

    • I’d love for Shaw to return to the game and, upon being called for a penalty, to call the Ref an ugly gnome.

      then I’d like to see everyone get up in arms about protecting the feelings of all gnomes in the world.

      the world is truly upside down

      • AD, come on. The LGBT community are a protected class of people who have had an abhorrent history of being systemically discriminated against. They have every right to demand respectful treatment and not to have terms that have been used to violate their constitutional rights proliferated at recreational events.

        To try and trivialize that with using gnomes as an actual comparable to the situation is revolting.

        • I trivialized no gay class of people and I think if you re-read what I wrote you will come to that same conclusion.

          What I DID trivialize is how people are reacting to this; not gays specifically but the league, social media and posters generally.

          It was only logical that my point about Freedom of Speech would ultimately be translated into an anti-gay comment. Hogwash I say, hogwash.

          • also, heading out for the day, so i am not avoiding any further comments for whatever that is worth! (not much)

  • I applaud your stance Pat – but….

    Unfortunately, this sort of trash talk goes on in sports (especially Hockey and Football) all the time and has become part of the game. Is it disrespectful to the person it is directed at? Absolutely Yes. When it is a racial or homophobic slur is it disrespectful to the group of people who represent the class the comment was directed at? Of course it is.

    But the sad reality of the US Society is that this type of behavior has become the norm not just in sports but also in the everyday life of all of us. Have you not been watching the presidential election coverage? Racial attacks, Religious attacks, name calling, fisticuffs.

    Folks – that is the real world. And it is embarrassing to me (and hopefully you) that these are the best people that we can put forth to lead our country? That is what you should be concerned about.

    The words of professional athletes who talk trash in the heat of the moment have been part of sports since it was invented. Truth is Andrew Shaw got suspended because he was caught on TV. No other reason. I bet the same slur was used five or six times in that very game by players on opposing sides to each other during a scrum. You can hear it on the open mic’s and you can certainly read the lips of not only the players but the coaches as well most every game.

    Are we worried as parents that this type of behavior affects our children because they look up to these athletes as heroes? Yes – and we should be.

    But do your kids watch TV? Because if you do- this type of sexual innuendo and potty mouth behavior is the norm. My kids are grown now but I cringe just watching Family Feud because of the lewd answers that are part of every broadcast. And it is on at 5:00 PM!!!.

    Practically every sitcom out there is full of some sort of slanted, sexual discussion on how much someone is “getting”, or how big someone’s body parts are (Male of Female) and all of the now seemingly inoffensive cursing that has become the norm of prime time TV. What do you tell your kids when watching those shows.

    And while I am ranting, when did “pissed-off” become an acceptable word to use on prime-time TV and in the papers? Did you know Sam Bradford is “pissed-off” today? Well yes he is – and the NY Post told me so on their sports landing page.

    Believe me I am no prude. Far, Far, from it. But I ask all of you folks where is the line of decency any more?

    Hockey of all sports is has always been a game of true honor and respect. The Stanley Cup playoffs are the ultimate of all team sports. Two teams beat the crap out of each other – usually within the rules – over seven intense games, then win or lose – you shake hands.

    But yet here on this very blog a few days’ was a discussion about calling and cheering when a member of the opposing team gets injured. Cindy Crosby or not – folk’s that is bush league at its finest. Maybe not in Philly but I would hope everywhere else. It goes against the very fabric of hockey – respect for the game. But yet many of the posters today are up in arms about a homophobic slur? Really??? Which line of decency that was crossed is worse?

    The NHL suspends Andrew Shaw for a slur and for guys giving the “cut your throat” gesture but does not do anything to Chris Letang for using his stick as a weapon, taking out three teeth of an opponent, and likely coming extremely close to severing that opponent’s aorta? Watch the video and then listen to Letang’s version. It is freaking ludicrous. Seriously – Where is the line of decency here?

    I’ve spouted off enough. Applaud the article Pat and for taking the time to write it. You obviously put a lot of thought into it. And in the big picture you are spot on.

    But folks look around – The line of decency that is crossed happens in way more impactful ways and way closer to home every day. Our society has just become numb to it as it has slowly crept in to be the norm. And to me, that is a sad state of affairs and that is what you should be worried about.

    Put your feelings, your concern, and your actions into fixing the larger societal problems rather than worrying about some prima dona hockey player who got “pissed off” and was caught. ☺

    • Thank you, Swarty for that nuanced blast of fresh air, if not clear-as-gin perspective.

      Yes, while we’re indulging in this ‘go-along/to get-along’ Group Think Exercise/Sensitivity Training folded into PC Overreach why don’t we also:

      ban The Bard’s “Merchant of Shakespeare” for his characterizing of “Shylock” the moneylender?

      … “Romeo and Juliet” for its blatant heterosexuality?

      Ban all 1970s- and 80s-era punk rock for the inflammatory language?

      Sanction “South Park” for all its insensitivity, crude and racist stereotyping?

      Yes, by all means let’s extend this Orwellian Newspeak–its limit on free expression, free thought/thought crime, self-expression cum individuality–to the NHL… I mean, that is once we plaster the jerseys with all manner of repulsive corporate logos.

      If whole buildings, post game shows and even goal replays can be corporatized, why not the players, their expressions, too?

      “Andrew Shaw’s off-color remarks are brought to you by Coors Lite…”

  • Why are people comparing hockey to everyone else’s place of work? No I can’t say something like that at work and avoid disciplinary action. I also can’t check people into the walls or slash them with a stick. Imagine, I hit someone with a high stick and just get 2 minutes of time out.

    Checking from behind? High sticking? hit to the head? Inconsistently called at best and often not. Hurt someone’s feelings? Suspended and fined. So it’s OK to physically attack someone out of anger, but to say something offense is too much. Got it.

    • That’s completely irrelevant. Certain types of conduct are allowed in different work places. Hockey players can physically engage one another, which is exceedingly rare in an employment environment. Police officers can carry guns and physically engage people who are behaving outside the law. Surgeons can cut people open, soldiers can kill or maim, race car drivers can drive 100+ mph.

      Point is, that type of conduct is allowed based on the occupation. Hockey is no different. Allowing people to spew toxic bigotry in their work place is not allowed in any job.

      Take issue with the NHL policing its own occupational policies all you want, but don’t use it as an excuse to condone Shaw’s behavior.

      • I didn’t condone the behavior. I think the discipline is out of line and inconsistent. After the number of offensive things I hear from NHL players over the air, the league jumps on this.

        Posters on this site are making a comparison to dissenters of the discipline by saying “you try to get away with that at your place of work.” What I’m saying is that it’s a weak comparison, which I believe is what you’re stating as well.

        The league has also made it apparent that they’re focus is not on the well-being of the players, their physical or mental health, but on their bottom dollar. If that language wasn’t heard over the air would there have been discipline? No.

        I’m not condoning what was said, just the overreaction to it. I guess I’m doing my part to that here as well.

      • Hey man, easy.

        Amish Eddie comes from a whole different place than us, psychically and physically. Besides, my man builds a ‘helluva set of buggy wheels.

  • I played hockey and baseball growing up. Plenty of times when anger got the better of me. Not once did slurs of any kind come to my vocabulary in the heat of the moment. It’s because this isn’t in my vocabulary to begin with.

    • Your a good guy. I used it all the time, meaning something wrong. Some might say putting a circle in a square. If all you people were religious I might agree with you. I just think everyone is hypocritical. Actions do damage and words hurt your feelings. No body ever hurt you feeling before. No one writes something down on this blog without getting their feelings hurt. Get over it and grow up.

      • I also have a zero tolerance with that crap and ban people/delete comments. I don’t care about heated discussions, slurs aren’t tolerated here. There’s an auto-filter that catches a lot of them and deletes them for me.

  • So, after spending the day dealing with the aftermath of the NY Primary, the tragic passing of Prince, and monitoring our websites for reaction to the LGBT bathroom issue…..I come to my favorite place to unwind and discuss the Rangers…..and I read this! Not what I was expecting, that’s for sure! 🙂

    First of all, very, very impressive article, Pat. I applaud you for even writing it. It takes courage to want to even delve into this matter on a hockey blog, especially since our thoughts are consumed right now with Game 4. But it was a welcome read, and the comments following were brilliantly done. I applaud all of you!

    I’m President/GM of a major news organization in the Midwest. I am part of a much larger company that has very, very strict standards of conduct. While we are not a sport, we do compete for attention (and therefore advertising dollars) with the likes of the NHL. The on air talent that works for me is therefore very much in the public eye, just like pro athletes.

    Our policies make it very clear that no employee has the right to say anything to a fellow employee that in any way can create a “hostile work environment”. This would include any inapproproriate contact, or comments that would in some way attempt to demean someone due to their age, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. To do so would result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

    This is pretty standard in every buinssss, but those in the public eye like mine and certainly the NHL, have to bend over backwards to insure that the work environment is managed appropriately and fairly.

    One can argue whether we have gotten too “politically correct” or not. It’s a fair discussion and central to many of the themes discussed by Donald Trump and today by Ted Cruz. It’s a fair debate and I obviously, for the sake of news objectivity, am not going to go there. But the fact is, we are in a litigious society, and those in the public eye run a great risk if those boundaries of what is “PC” are crossed.

    I have no problem with the one game suspension for Shaw. As for the high stick on Stalberg, that’s another matter, and frankly, unrelated. Shaw presumably violated the league’s code of conduct, which is handled by a different department than Player Safety. Obviously, Letang should have gotten a penalty, maybe even a match penalty (remember when Pavel Bure high stocked Glen Anderson in Game 3 back in 1994, and the Russian Rocket was tossed from the game? What happened the other night was at least as bad!). It most definitely warranted a one game suspension. But the Shaw action and the Stalberg “inaction” are completely unrelated.

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