Adam Williams, Contributor Ω
It’s not hard to see why the public perception of hockey players is what it is, simply because of the physical nature of the game they play. But despite the stereotype that has them missing teeth, covered from head to toe in scars and throwing their bodies in harm’s way, NHL players are incredibly modest and well-mannered as far as athletes go.
Many come from humble beginnings and solid upbringings, are highly educated, loyal members of their community and are involved in a number of charitable efforts both at home and on the road. The NHL, for all its rough and tumble play, is actually one of the more progressive leagues in professional sports and it has taken a number of player-led initiatives like the “You Can Play Project” to slowly change the public perception.
The NHL is quickly becoming a league that fans and players can be proud of — which is what makes New Jersey Devils forward Cam Janssen’s behaviour on a St. Louis based radio show last week all the more unfortunate.
For those who didn’t catch the uncensored interview, Janssen weighed in on a number of topics from around the NHL, including his recent run through the playoffs.
Throughout the show Janssen made a few questionable comments, and when asked about ‘chirping’ opponents things really crossed the line.
At the encouragement of the show’s host, Janssen spoke about how a homosexual player would be received on the ice. For obvious reasons the full quote can’t be written here, but take my word for it when I say things went too far.
So now, in the fallout of this interview, we in the sports world are left to analyze what sorts of repercussions there will be.
If you ask me, I think there will be some good and some bad in the wake of this incident.
Janssen’s behaviour was foolish to say the least and the public apology he released is evidence of the public chastising he was taking. Homophobia is not something that will be tolerated in the public eye and with support for LGBT athletes from the NHL steadily increasing lately, Janssen could not have had worse timing. I have no doubt that Janssen, and from around the league who have followed this incident, has learned his lesson about intolerance towards the LGBT community; that can only be a good thing.
I want to make it abundantly clear that I am in no way supporting what Janssen said, but the lambasting that he’s taken in the media is precisely why athletes – particularly hockey players – give some of the most boring and cliched interviews imaginable; they’re afraid of saying anything wrong.
As a journalist and a fan I know this will be just another incident that further degrades the quality of pre-game (and post-game, and in-game) media coverage, and scares players away from showing any personality in their interviews; that is a bad thing.
It’s encouraging to see the reaction that a homophobic comment elicited from the general public in present times; it’s a sign that things are changing. Now, it’s time for everyone to move on and allow Janssen to move on with his life as well. The league has come too far to be beyond forgiving a short-sighted comment.