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Stop the hazing culture in sports

By Chris Jones/Column

To me, Daniel Carcillo is a hero for speaking out about his experiences as a rookie in the OHL.

Hazing in professional sports isn’t anything new, but for Carcillo it had a lasting impact on him, and several other athletes.

Carcillo played for the Sarnia Sting and Mississauga IceDogs during his time in the OHL. He was one of those rare enforcers who could not only fight, but could also score when needed, as shown by his 30 goals during the 2003-04 season for the Sting. He also won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks.

He recently shared his experiences as a rookie in the OHL, being hazed by those he thought would support him and help guide him during his time on the ice – his teammates.

After posting on Twitter about his experiences, he related to media stories of how he was locked in a bus bathroom with six or seven other rookies, urinated upon, and beaten with the paddle of a broken goalie stick. He’s publicly stated that he was inspired by the stories of abuse that have recently surfaced from St. Michael’s College School in Toronto to come forward with his own story.

Carcillo wasn’t the only one who came forward, as former teammates Dave Pszenyczny and Charles Amodeo have come forward as well, saying that several veteran players were both physically and emotionally abusive to rookies on their team.

No 16-year-old should be hazed in the ways these men have described.

I’ve been reading comments online saying that this is normal behaviour, especially for boys. This mentality is unacceptable. Carcillo was physically beaten with a paddle, and some people have said in response “boys will be boys.”

To me that’s infuriating because they’re essentially saying that bullying is okay, and that those who have experienced it essentially need to suck it up.

There’s also been supporters, many of whom Carcillo has responded to on social media., who have come forward with their own experiences with bullying and hazing. It’s an unfortunate fact that sometimes people can be cruel to one another, and to just brush it off like it’s nothing is inhumane.

Teenagers especially need to be shown that this kind of behaviour is not okay. Sports are meant to be an outlet that can help teens and children feel safe. I know they were for me.

We do see a lot of hazing still today, despite the fact the OHL now has an anti-hazing policy in place. Some of it can be pretty small, such as unscrewing the lid on a water bottle, or not high fiving a rookie right away when they hit their first home run. But that’s the stuff we see. We have no idea what goes on behind the scenes.

If what Carcillo says is true, there’s no way these are isolated incidents, as there are already documented incidents that are very similar.

According to an article from ESPN that came out in June, 80 per cent of college athletes admit to being hazed to some degree, but the vast majority of incidents go unreported.

In 1980, J.T. Todd, a freshman hockey player at the University of Michigan, was reportedly given enough alcohol that his teammates were able to strip him, shave him, and cover him in jam, eggs and cologne before leaving him outside in freezing temperatures for 90 minutes. He was one of five players to get hazed.

In 1981, at Toms River High School in New Jersey, freshmen soccer players were physically abused and thrown in the mud as part of an annual hazing event. The coaches were all let go from their positions for allowing it to happen.

At Lowell High School in Massachusetts, five senior hockey players were removed from the team because of hazing in 1985. The five players reportedly punched and hung sophomore players by their waists. According to their lawyers, the perpetrators reportedly went through a similar hazing incident.

In 1996 at Duxbury High School in Massachusetts, several baseball players were caught shoplifting while wearing their team uniform. Because of this annual tradition, the team forfeited 13 games that season.

In 2000 at Abesegami High School in New Jersey, Labe Black, a wrestler who had won the state championship, allegedly forced a young wrestler to drink five beers in 20 minutes. He was arrested and suspended from school for the incident.

Many of these incidents were a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped. Carcillo’s incident was during the 2003 and 2004 season.

The incidents at St. Michaels were this year. Those students still attend that school to this day.

But once again, the school’s response was essentially “Boys will be boys.”

To those of you who are showing apathy and are unwilling to accept that what they did was cruel, how would you feel if this was happening to your child?

This is something that we should be outraged over. The fact that this was able to go on for so long should cause widespread outrage and empathy for those involved, not a collective shrug.