Saying sorry not nearly good enough for OHL players’ abusive language

Greg Betzold's apology on Twitter
Greg Betzold's apology on Twitter

Greg Betzold says he’s sorry.

Earlier this week a conversation between the Peterborough Petes player and a woman on the dating app Tinder was made public. In part of his conversation with the woman he calls her a "pure bread (sic) dumb stupid c—t."

A second conversation, allegedly involving another player on the same app, also was disclosed. According to sources the second player has denied having made the scurrilous comments and the Ontario Hockey League is investigating. On Tuesday evening, Belleville Bulls forward Jake Marchment, a Los Angeles Kings prospect, took responsibility for those comments and apologized via his Twitter account.

Like Betzold, when the advances are rejected, the other conversation becomes thick with misogyny and entitlement.

“Babe I play in the O and got drafted to the NHL ya I get turned down so much…Lolz you ugly c—t.”

Betzold issued an apology on Twitter which in part read that his comments “do not reflect my true values or views.”

True values are something that should never be compromised. It’s part of your core. And the way you view and treat women in private would be the same way you would do so in public. Peterborough general manager Mike Oke says the team will pursue the matter internally. When asked if Betzold would be given a team suspension, Oke was noncommittal.

“I’m just going to say we’ve dealt with him,” said the GM on Tuesday. “We’ve dealt with the incident internally and we’re moving forward.”

Dealing with the incident internally is sadly apropos because, in my own personal experience, behind closed team doors is where sexism in hockey thrives. As attitudes in society have changed, the misogyny is not nearly as overt and blatant as it once was, but you can be sure it’s still there flourishing on team buses and in dressing rooms.

Back in 2010, while writing for another outlet, I was waiting outside an OHL dressing room to conduct a post-game interview with a player from the losing team. I was out of view, leaning against a pillar as players came in and out of the room. The team’s general manager came barreling though the hallway and yelled at one of his players: “Wipe that smile off your face, you c—nt.”

He hadn’t seen me.

In more than a decade covering the OHL I can only recall three shouting matches I’ve had on the job and that was one of them. He apologized profusely, but it didn’t matter. It brought out anger I didn't know existed. Not anger because this man had a wife and daughter, but because, to me at least, he was affirming to these young men that it was acceptable to use that language. It was acceptable to incorporate that word into a sporting lexicon that is already overflowing with ways to degrade women. It was acceptable to think that way.

For the longest time I debated reporting it to OHL commissioner David Branch. I decided against it because I knew nothing would be done. The OHL has always been lauded as proactive when it comes to handling on-ice discipline and rule changes. On off-ice issues, however, the league has a history of being slow, out of touch and reactive. In my case, there was no YouTube video, screenshot or public outcry to shame the league into action. It would have been another email to disappear into the ether, never to return.

The OHL knows about these latest incidents and league vice-president Ted Baker says they’re investigating. The league has a social media policy that they've used in the past to mete out suspensions - most notably referee Joe Monette after he made disparaging remarks on Twitter. They also have an all-encompassing harassment and diversity policy which has been used to suspend players for untoward behaviour, but it’s unclear whether the OHL would use it for a suspension in this case.

“It’s difficult to say at this point in time,” said Baker. “We’re just gathering information. I think we’re preliminarily satisfied with the way the Peterborough Petes have handled this situation.”

Internally and behind closed team doors.