Hazing is a hot topic again
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Hazing is back in the news
You may have noticed this the last few days. You may not know why. Let's try and get you caught up:
It started with a disturbing incident at an elite Toronto private school. Six students at the all-boys St. Michael's College were charged last week in connection with an alleged gang sexual assault that was captured on video and shared on social media. The charges reportedly involved members of the school football team, aged 14 and 15, who allegedly pinned down another student in a locker room and sexually assaulted him with a broom handle.
That got people talking about hazing again. It's an on-again, off-again discussion that usually resurfaces around a high-profile case like the one at St. Michael's — though, let's be clear, this went far beyond anything that could be considered typical hazing. It was an alleged sexual assault. In a sports context, hazing (if you don't know) is the practice of subjecting new members of a team to humiliating tasks. It's also called initiation. Hazing is usually associated with young men or adolescent boys, but a recent Canadian study found it's common among female athletes too.
Then it became a hockey story. In Canada, that makes something a bigger deal. And that's what's happened since former NHL tough guy Daniel Carcillo came forward to share his own experiences with hazing in junior hockey. Carcillo said earlier this week that he was beaten by teammates with the sawed-off paddle part of a goalie stick when he was a rookie with the OHL's Sarnia Sting. He then shared his memory of a teammate being taped to a table — naked — and smacked with a belt. He also recalls being stuffed — again, naked — into a bus washroom with half a dozen teammates while veteran players spit chewing tobacco on them through a vent. Carcillo called that his "breaking point."
This is all a reminder that hazing is still a thing. Varsity sports and junior hockey are notorious for it, though Carcillo admits the OHL has taken steps in recent years to mitigate hazing and the league says it continues to have a zero-tolerance policy. And yet hazing keeps happening. That study mentioned earlier found that nearly two-thirds of Canadian varsity athletes say they've experienced some form of hazing. And ask anyone who has played high-level sports in their teens or later — chances are good they'll have a story about, say, getting a bad haircut or being made to go out in public in a ridiculous outfit. The merits of milder stuff like that can be debated, and even grown men and women on pro teams will often go along with it. But everyone can agree that a line is crossed when hazing turns violent, abusive or sexual — or all three. The question, still unanswered, is how to stop it.
Auston Matthews is back. The Leafs sniper practised with the team yesterday and will return to the lineup tonight vs. San Jose. Matthews hasn't played since injuring his shoulder on Oct. 27 and says he's been "bored to death" the last month. Before he got hurt, Matthews was off to a blazing start — he had 10 goals in 11 games. The Leafs have done OK without him, winning nine of 14 games to stay in the top three of the very tough Atlantic Division.
A soccer player came back from the dead. Well, sort of. A game was called off and teams across Ireland's Leinster Senior League observed a minute of silence after a death notice for Fernando Nuno La Fuente appeared in a local paper. Turns out he was alive — not killed in a traffic accident like the story said. His team, Ballybrack FC, blamed it all on a "gross error of judgement" by a club employee who reportedly pulled the stunt in order to get an upcoming game postponed. The team caught on after calling La Fuente's family to ask if there was anything they could do.
Buffalo (!) (?!) remains the hottest — and most heart-stopping — team in hockey. The NHL's biggest surprise won its 10th in a row last night when Jeff Skinner scored again in overtime to beat San Jose. Skinner's 17th goal of the season tied him for the league lead. It also made Buffalo the first NHL team ever to finish last in the league and then the next season find itself alone in first place overall after 25 games (hat tip to ESPN for that one). The Sabres' winning streak is full of thrillers — nine games have been decided by one goal, including seven in either OT or a shootout. As Bob Cole would say, everything is happening right now in Buffalo: the Sabres are reborn, the Bills have somehow won two in a row, and there's talk of upgrading both the hockey arena and football stadium.
Do you remember...
We recently started a regular feature where we look back at a memorable sports moment with a (sometimes tenuous) tie to the present day. So, in honour of the Sabres' winning streak, do you remember...
The Mayday goal?
Sure, it's kind of embarrassing when a first-round playoff win is one of the best moments in a city's sports history. But you have to understand how big this was for Buffalo fans. In the spring of 1993, it had been a decade since the Sabres last won a series, and the Bills had just lost their third of what would become four straight Super Bowls.
Buffalo was a big underdog against Boston in the NHL playoffs. The Bruins had Ray Bourque and the second-best record in the league. The Sabres were barely .500. But Buffalo stole the first two games at Boston Garden and took Game 3 in overtime back home at "The Aud." When Game 4 went to OT, this unlikely series got the unlikely hero it deserved.
Brad May had been a highly skilled (and fierce) star in junior hockey with Niagara Falls — what we'd later call a power forward. But after two seasons in the NHL he was known more as a fighter. So when he picked up the puck near the Bruins' blue-line, undressed the great Bourque and deked out Andy Moog to score the series winner… well, the look on May's face said it all — pure joy and disbelief. And, of course, Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret delivered the perfect call — one of the most famous in hockey history.
My favourite little detail, by the way: the first guy to wrap his arms around May as he's wildly celebrating the goal? Dominik Hasek. At the time a relatively unknown backup to Grant Fuhr, Hasek had come on in relief after the first intermission and stopped 23 of 24 shots to help Buffalo rally from a 5-2 deficit. A sign of things to come, as Hasek would go on to become one of the greatest goalies of all time.
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