Habs facing hometown criticism after drafting player who violated woman's privacy

Politicians, advocacy groups, and fans in Quebec are expressing concerns about the recent Canadiens draft pick, Logan Mailloux.

Politicians, advocacy groups, and fans express concern about message team sent by selecting Logan Mailloux

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, seen here in a file photo, announced on Friday the team had selected Logan Mailloux with their first-round pick. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After an improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals this spring, the Montreal Canadiens accumulated vast amounts of goodwill from fans around the province. 

But the team's management risked squandering much of it on Friday by drafting Logan Mailloux, an 18-year-old defenceman who was fined recently for sharing sexually explicit photos of a woman without her consent.

The decision by the Canadiens to select Mailloux with their first-round pick has drawn condemnation from a wide range of sources, including members of the Quebec government and opposition politicians.

The Canadiens improbable playoff run, which ended with a loss to Tampa Bay in the finals, energized the province. (Andrej Ivanov / AFP via Getty Images)

Quebec's minister responsible for the status of women, Isabelle Charest, posted a Twitter thread on Saturday saying she was "disappointed" the Habs chose to draft Mailloux.

Charest, a former Olympic athlete, added: "The choice to draft Mr. Mailloux doesn't align with the positive change I want to bring to sports and society as a whole."

Liberal MNA Enrico Ciccone, who spent nearly a decade playing defence in the NHL, also signalled on Twitter he thought the Canadiens should have avoided using their first-round choice on Mailloux.

"My thoughts are with the young victim today," he wrote on Saturday.

Québec Solidaire's parliamentary leader, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, said the Canadiens had sent a "terrible message" to aspiring hockey players by drafting someone charged with a sexual crime.

Women's groups concerned

While playing in Sweden last season, Mailloux secretly took photos of a consensual sexual encounter, then showed them to his teammates and revealed the woman's identity to them.

She went to police and he was charged with invasion of privacy and defamation. As a minor at the time, Mailloux was ordered to pay a fine equivalent to around $1,700.

Several advocacy groups also expressed concern about the message the hockey club sent by drafting Mailloux.

"We believe that it fits in with rape culture," said Roxanne Ocampo-Picard, spokesperson for an organization that represents resources centres for victims of sexual violence, Regroupement québécois des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel.

"Collectively, we don't take actions like this seriously enough."

Manon Monastesse, who heads a federation of women's shelters in Quebec, said she hopes Mailloux demonstrates his willingness to make amends for his crime, suggesting he do community service or donate to women's groups.

"The Canadiens need more than words from their player," Monastesse said.

Habs fans, normally a die-hard bunch, took to various social media outlets to convey their anger at the team.

A front-page headline in the Journal de Montreal on Sunday said the Canadiens were "disconnected." In La Presse, a column began by stating, "The Canadiens committed an error in judgment by drafting Logan Mailloux."

Habs promise to help player 'mature'

On Saturday, Mailloux answered questions from reporters in an online news conference. "I know I caused a lot of harm to this person and their family, and I regret doing this stupid and egotistical act," he said, adding that he is in counselling.

Last week, though, the woman told The Athletic that while Mailloux had apologized to her, she didn't feel it was heartfelt.

Shortly after that story was published Mailloux released a statement asking NHL teams not to draft him, saying he hadn't demonstrated enough "maturity" to earn the privilege of being drafted.

Logan Mailloux, from Belle River, Ont., spoke to reporters yesterday via video conference. (Montreal Canadiens)

After the Habs selected him anyway, leaving many sports journalists stunned, the team said in statement they intended to provide Mailloux with "the tools to mature."

It's not yet clear what that entails.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the team's head of scouting, Trevor Timmins, said he opted for Mailloux because he was worried other teams would select him in the second round.

Asked why the team ignored Mailloux's wishes not to be drafted, Timmins spent more than 20 seconds coming up with a response.

"I thought he was emotional when that came out," he said eventually. "Maybe today he's thinking a little differently."

With files from La Presse Canadienne