NHL players speak on off-ice issues

Hockey has enjoyed a long stretch of having a strong public image.

All of that has changed in the past 12 months.

And you really don’t have to look any further than the past 3 months to find a number of ugly incidents, some that have been convicted and others that still need to play out in court.

Pierre LeBrun spoke with a number of players in an article on ESPN:

And while we can debate whether several disconnected arrests or incidents present a trend or just an unlucky year, all of it has perhaps served to raise awareness among the rest of the player membership about one’s conduct off the ice and the pitfalls that exist.

“I think as players we’re all aware of it,” superstar center Sidney Crosby told ESPN.com this week at the Player Tour event. “The league and Players’ Association do a good job of informing us and making us well-aware of certain situations and consequences, things like that. I think it’s something that everyone, whether you’re a professional hockey player or a professional athlete, in general everyone is trying to educate each other in terms of situations you could be put in and making the right decisions.

“Obviously, when you’re a professional athlete the expectations are a little bit higher, that’s something we all understand. It doesn’t mean we’re above making mistakes or that we won’t experience challenging situations. At that point, it’s about making the right decision.”

Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf echoed Crosby’s comments, saying his peers “take pride in being role models,” he told ESPN.com this week.

“And it’s been a tough summer for the National Hockey League,” added Phaneuf. “But it does raise awareness for guys, and it should raise awareness, about how we conduct ourselves as professionals. I’m not going to talk about any one incident, that’s not fair for me to say, but as professionals and representing the National Hockey League, I feel that we have a very good reputation and we want to uphold that.”

As it stands, the NHL routinely educates players each year both through a presentation to all 30 teams by NHL security staff, and Behavioral Health Program doctors also make yearly presentations to the players about key issues to be aware of.

On top of that, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr is expected during his annual fall tour of the 30 dressing rooms to make this past year’s uncharacteristic set of arrests part of his talking points with players. The NHL, with consultation from the NHLPA, wants to do even more.

“We’re considering an additional educational program this year which could be up and running as early as this year, it’s a domestic violence/sexual abuse-type focus program,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com this week.

The league will talk to the NHLPA about the possible program to get their feelings on it, and it could perhaps be rolled out this year to all clubs and players.

The Los Angeles Kings, who saw three of their players arrested in a span of nine months, have also taken steps to address off-ice issues. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Kings recently hired former NHL player Brantt Myhres to be the team’s player assistance director.

Myhres — who struggled with substance abuse during his career, but has been clean for more than seven years — will be in training camp with the Kings and will be a resource for coaches and players during the season.

Read the rest of the article here.

Image courtesy of Kaz Andrew.



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