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When will the NHL stop letting us down?

There is a problem embedded within the culture of hockey, and it's time for a change.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So I'm not sure for us there is any need for any code of conduct other than our players, who overwhelming conduct themselves magnificently off the ice -- we deal with it on a case by case basis. I don't think we need to formalize anything more. Our players know what's right and wrong, and as I said, we have the mechanisms in place to hopefully not get to that point.

-Gary Bettman

Another day, and another hockey player with far too much money to not know any better is under investigation for something pretty reprehensible.

In light of the ongoing investigation, there's not really much else to say at the moment, except that "being investigated for rape" probably doesn't go on Patrick Kane's Hall of Fame resume alongside "three Stanley Cups." Nevertheless it's kind of nauseating that once again a hockey player is in the news for doing something that was probably reckless and stupid, and once again an army of defenders has lined up behind the rich guy doing shady things because... reasons.

Exactly when do we have to look ourselves in the mirror and recognize that hockey has a bit of problem with the people inside its fraternity being completely awful? JUST THIS SUMMER;

  • Slava Voynov has been convicted and sentenced to prison time of a pretty sickening account of assaulting his wife.
  • Mike Richards is under investigation for a border incident involving prescription drugs which led to the Kings terminating his contract.
  • Mike Ribeiro got rewarded for a case involving sexually assaulting (and subsequently trying to pay off) a nanny with a contract extension and apologia from David Poile.
  • Ryan O'Reilly celebrated a $50 million contract by getting drunk and driving into the side of a Tim Hortons' (and fleeing the scene).

And now this.

The two saddest parts of that above list? The first is that I'm sure I missed a bunch of other incidents. The second is that all of those incidents seemed to get less attention this summer than the story fabricated by a sad excuse of a journalist about a hockey player buying hot dogs.

And yet despite all these incidents that span generations at this point, we continue to make excuses and point fingers elsewhere, and not own up to the fact that WE ARE THE PROBLEM.

We've let them get away with this for so long that they're numb to the consequences from it, and that to actually try and raise concerns about it now -- now that women, and persons of colour, and people from the LGBT community have taken a significant interest in the game -- the concerns are dismissed and belittled as a "social justice crusade."

On the ice, hockey's revolutionizing itself and cleaning up a lot of problems that have gone on for years. Enforcers and ugly violent incidents are decreasing, or at the very least being given the appropriate negative attention that they deserve. The quality of hockey players has never been higher and the game is generally a joy to watch.

Off ice? The culture of the game is a horror show, it permeates several layers down, and nobody seems interested in cleaning it up.

In March, a news report surfaced that an investigation into players on the Cobourg Cougars Junior A team were facing sexual assault charges. No further details on the investigation have been provided since. Did the players face any potential reprimand? Hockey Canada instead found the city deserving of hosting the 2016 World Junior A Challenge and awarded the Cougars franchise the 2017 RBC Cup.

During the 2013-2014 season, two University of Ottawa varsity hockey players were charged with sexual assault following a road trip in Thunder Bay. The team, including its coaching staff, were subsequently suspended, and remain suspended after the school wasn't notified of the incident by the team.

Apologists like to claim that when these incidents occur, it usually stems from a one-off incident or some sort of quasi-defence that it's a problem with that person. We don't have a problem; that guy has a problem. But...

It's all nonsense. The fact that our society faces problems with rape, sexual assault, and drinking and driving doesn't excuse the NHL (and hockey in general) from addressing the problem when its own people do those things. It speaks to a lack of character (that oh so precious commodity in hockey) that we won't do anything to step in and either remedy the situation or punish the offenders.

And yeah, maybe the people doing these things are entitled, spoiled, rich athletes. But you know what happens when an entitled and spoiled asshole has all of his mistakes blindly defended and he never has to take any responsibility for his actions? He continues to be entitled, spoiled, and rich.

The NHL wants to have it both ways. They want to grow the game and continue to see more and more money collected to fill up the coffers of their owners, but they don't want to deal with the fallout of having new people follow the game.

They want their hockey audience to remain homogenous, but rather than accept that new fans have a different perspective and aren't okay with hockey's status quo, new people need to adapt to the way that it's always been, the oldest, whitest sport going.

A sport that considers Phil Kessel and Evander Kane toxic when their greatest crime appears to be having fun being professional hockey players. When Don Cherry, pretty much the token for everything that needs to change about hockey, puffs his chest and talks about how hockey's great because of "the love of the game" and how "hockey players don't do drugs and get arrested," it's ironic because Kessel and E. Kane are those players. They show up, they have some fun, and they do their job.

And yet they are considered the "cancers," the guys that every team needs to get rid of or marginalize. They have their feet held to the fire for non-issues like taking a picture with a stack of money or not saluting the fans. Has anyone even asked Ryan O'Reilly for a comment since his DUI investigation? Has anyone questioned why Ribeiro was re-signed? Why didn't management? Does anyone expect Patrick Kane to face any sort of real fallout from this?

We've reached a moment where the ugly and disgraceful side of hockey can't be hidden anymore, and the NHL needs to take action to ensure that they keep those new fans that they've acquired (seriously, I have no idea how people hockey marginalized based on their gender or ethnicity or sexual orientation have remained fans this long), and don't start alienating their existing fans.

I'm a lifelong fan of hockey. My dad immigrated to Canada from Ireland when he was a teenager (literally one of the first hockey games he ever attended was when a 14-year old Wayne Gretzky played junior hockey in Toronto) and while he enjoys the game and we'll chat about the Leafs, he doesn't have the same level of passion about it that I do. The game grabbed hold of me early and I've been hooked ever since.

But now, I seriously wonder whether it's worth it to continue that commitment to it, and whether I should even be considering introducing my son to this game, because I can't help but seeing all the ways that the game fails: how those that govern the game fail its players by letting costs run rampant and politics run amok. How those that get paid to talk about hockey fail the game by teaching the wrong lessons and prioritizing settling petty scores.

How our heroes fail us by making the wrong decisions and not even appearing remorseful about it.

You've got the audience and attention you always wanted, NHL. Now fix your shit.