Ok, so as if the Hawks week can’t get any better as they get routinely thwacked by real-ass teams in their own division (oh, and they see a potential 60-goal scorer Thursday), evidence that they actually have no idea what they’re doing in the front office continues to mount. And I don’t mean getting capped out last night to the extreme of 17 skaters.
At the top, we should say that the Hawks are just in the same net with the rest of hockey, and their actions or behavior is more just a symptom of the whole damn culture than they being unique. What it does do is tear down this idea, that they are the biggest promoters of, that they are somehow the gold standard organization.
It started last week or so, when Akim Aliu said that he had been racially abused by Bill Peters while both were in Rockford. Now we know pretty much the whole story, and it involves team captain at the time Jake Dowell having a sit-down with Peters over what he had said to Aliu.
This is hockey, and if there is any sport where this kind of thing can somehow not make its way up the food chain, it’s here. Players are afraid to cause waves, organizations are terrified of media distractions, everyone else is in the middle. However, your AHL captain meeting with your AHL coach over this, it’s nearly impossible to think that this doesn’t set off alarm bells for everyone both in Rockford and Chicago.
And as friend of the program Chris Block has pointed out, there are other people in and out of AHL dressing rooms all the time. Agents, families, team personnel, some media, so the idea that this was completely contained in the dressing room and the coach’s office, there’s just no way to buy that. Peters was gone a year later to join Mike Babcock’s staff, so maybe the Hawks just thought everything was taken care of with that. Maybe they thought the gloss of a newly contending team washed away all. Maybe they were afraid of dulling that in any way. Whatever the answer, it isn’t enough.
And now they have to investigate their own assistant coach, one they brought in to babysit their struggling young coach/take over when that young coach finally drowned. Again, I wasn’t really aware of Marc Crawford’s past, but it wasn’t really my job to be. When doing due diligence on a new hire, you’d have to believe if you scraped anywhere beneath the surface you’d find his record of abuse. Y’know, because it was in a former player’s book and all? I didn’t read O’Sullivan’s book, but someone somewhere did and might have mentioned this kind of thing. Call me crazy.
It’s kind of amazing how recently this shit has gone on. We are 40 year beyond Woody Hayes punching an opposing player, which ended his famous career, and that’s in football which is the only sport that has a bigger attitude amongst its coaches of how tough they are due to how saggy their balls are and whatnot. We’re over 20 years since Bobby Knight was kicking and choking his own players (and son) at Indiana. All this in hockey is in the last five to ten years. Amazing what happens in this dark corner.
Again, on the other side, some would tell you that hockey’s culture of “just take it and shut up” handicaps them from acting. But we know that the Hurricanes went up the chain to Ron Francis. We know the Red Wings did the same to Ken Holland about Babcock. We know Dowell confronted Peters at the very least. So while there’s certainly an element of players afraid to speak up, it’s not like they’ve been totally silent either. The problem is that when they have spoken up, they’ve faced an indifferent or callous organization looking in the opposite direction.
If you’ve paid any attention, you know the way the Hawks paint themselves isn’t anywhere near reality. Any crisis they’ve faced they’ve royally fucked up, and combined with their current fucking up the on-ice product (what only anyone really cares about at the end of the day) they’ve been revealed to be one of the more balloon-handed organizations around.
But to restrict this as a Hawks problem would be unfair and silly. I’ve thought a lot about this lately and why hockey is so far behind everything else. And it’s mostly that it operated in the dark for so long, anything could go on because no one knew except for those in it. There was no one around to point out all the things wrong, because the only ones who knew were the ones in the culture and they could behave however they saw fit. Hell, the reason some of us became fans was because no one else was. So it’s not that hockey is upset that it’s being scrutinized now, it’s upset that anyone is looking at all. It doesn’t want to jibe with the wider world because the wider world was never aware of its existence for so long. But that’s not a justification, and far from it.
I don’t know why these GMs like Holland or Treveling or Francis or whoever knew here or whoever was Crawford’s boss just tried to shoo it away. The easy answer is callousness, and that might be it. I think it’s at least part laziness too. Because if they had taken action, that would only lead to more questions they would have to answer. Questions they aren’t equipped to handle. And we know how much they hate the media and questions. It’s just easier to say “man up” even though we’ve eliminated that term as a qualified answer years ago. It’s easier to hope that things just go away, which they did.
Well, they won’t now, and it’s a bigger mess. Who’s around who is actually equipped to deal with it?