Fri Sep 07 11:15am EDT
The latest ugly details about Boston University's internal report into legendary coach Jack Parker's lack of control over his players could have far-reaching implications.
The one theme that runs through it might be that acceptance of coaches of high-profile teams having unchecked power — a theme that ran through the Penn State tragedy, although that's such an extreme example — might be waning. Does that have ramifications in Canada and in major junior hockey? A large American university such as BU is its own bubble. The Canadian Hockey League also has its own culture of players sealing themselves off somewhat from the general population, although the players may still attend the local high school or post-secondary institutions and also live with host families. They might also be based in smaller communities where it's tacitly understood that one should not rock the boat. Still, what is happening in Boston, where the university's task force found BU Terriers players engage in group sex with "surprising regularity," should be an alert to "the management of any team at a level where players are idolized in their community," in Gregg Drinnan's words. The CHL fits that description.
Again, that's not meant to smear by association. It just points up the importance of stressing the right kind of character. The graphic details in the Boston Globe about the players' conduct and Parker's cavalier approach to should be a warning sign.
(A)t least some BU hockey players, surrounded by adoring fans, had "the perception that they need not seek consent for sexual contact."
One player came close to admitting that. "You don't ask [permission for sex] when you are drunk," he told the task force, adding that he did not see how the actions of the two players charged last year constituted sexual assault.
Another player used two slurs to describe women who "hook up with multiple guys," then wondered, "What other word for them is there?"
A female student told the task force that a player had shoved his hands down her pants at a party and refused to stop even as she was punching him. She did not report the incident to authorities because, she said, "that's just what [BU hockey players] do."
Another told of a Facebook posting "in which hockey players boast about their sexual exploits," referring to conquests as "kills."
Parker told the task force he had stressed the importance of being respectful to women and advised players to avoid group sex, which the confidential report notes players engage in with surprising regularity. "However," Parker is quoted as saying, "my job is not to say, 'You guys gotta be celibate.' "
As Scott McLaughlin pointed out, the problem is not unique to Boston University hockey. That makes it, in his wise words, all the more important to "better equip everyone to handle it." That has to start when top-level athletes are much younger. Or teams will have to start taking a harder line on character and integrity, which is hard to do when there is so much pressure to win at every level. One would hope, fingers crossed, that that already happens. It's hard to believe someone became a complete boor just because he donned a BU Terriers jersey.
This is a college hockey story, but it's clearly not limited to only college hockey. Or only to hockey or to NCAA Division I schools. We are in a period where people are questioning a lot of things they were willing to abide as a trade-off for big shiny things such as a winning team. Attitudes in Canada often tend to follow America's lead. It cannot hurt to be out in front of it. It's also possible the furore will fizzle and everything will go back to What Is.
Jack Parker's future at Boston University is better left to the college hockey blogetariat. It is hard to imagine how a younger, less respected coach would still be employed after having this get out.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.