Behind the Bench, Sports

Behind the Bench: Montreal Canadiens must repent for their draft pick

Content warning: This article discusses sexual violence.

On July 23, the Montreal Canadiens organization made the controversial decision to draft Logan Mailloux as the team’s first round pick. Mailloux was charged and fined in November 2020 for taking and sharing sexually explicit photos of a woman without her consent. As public scrutiny mounted in the days before the draft, Mailloux posted on Twitter asking teams not to draft him until he felt he had gained the maturity, character, and trust to be worthy of playing in the NHL. 

Many fans, especially women and survivors of sexual violence, were appalled by this decision. Zoe Babad-Palmer, BA ‘21, was disappointed, but not surprised, by both the pick itself and the way the organization carried itself in the days that followed.

“[The Habs’] backtracking and responses after the draft have made it even worse,” Babad-Palmer said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “It makes me seriously consider why I should give them my time, money, and attention when they can’t give their fans, especially fans who are survivors of sexual violence, care or respect.”

Rachel Jaworski, U2 Arts, shared Babad-Palmer’s sentiments, arguing that the organization should be ashamed for going through with this draft pick.

“It just proves how little progress we have made in teaching about sexual assault and consent,” Jaworski said. “By drafting Mailloux, the Canadiens have shown how little they truly care about their female fans, with athletic talent being valued over real human lives.”

While many fans understandably feel betrayed and disgusted by Habs management for making this move, others believe that Mailloux deserves a second chance

An argument often invoked by excusers of this behaviour is that men should not be punished for poor choices made in their teenage years. Unfortunately, this rhetoric is common in the sports community, with terms like “locker room talk” originating in these spaces and being used to justify vulgar harassment. This line of thinking, however, discounts the lives and experiences of people whose lives are forever altered by violence and assault.

In 2016, the NHL adopted a domestic violence and sexual assault training program aimed at preventing sexual abuse by its players. Despite this program, scandals continue to surface and players rarely face retribution or take accountability after they are accused. 

Selecting Mailloux is a serious misstep for the Canadiens, and especially for general manager Marc Bergevin, who was the director of personnel for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 at the time when two players were reportedly sexually assaulted by video coach Brad Aldrich. 

Although the Habs management made feeble attempts to remedy the situation, such as announcing a plan to raise awareness around sexual violence, many fans are not ready to forgive the organization. Babad-Palmer noted that the Canadiens’ lack of accountability for their actions may lead some fans to cease their support entirely.

“The announcements they have made on raising awareness and education on sexual cyberviolence are a step in the right direction, but at this point I’m not sure if I trust them to follow through,” Babad-Palmer said. “If they make good on their word, it will help, but it will not erase the draft, and I would not blame any fans [or] former fans who have abandoned the team for good.”

This decision to pick Mailloux was extraordinarily misguided, not to mention a complete waste, as he was barred from participating in the Habs’ rookie and training camps, and was suspended from the entire OHL season this year. 

In Jaworski’s opinion, Mailloux should be dropped from the organization if the Canadiens want to prove that they value justice and accountability.

“Mailloux has caused great harm from his actions and he has just proven how pervasive toxic masculinity still is in sports environments,” Jaworski explained. “The Canadiens need to do better, and this starts with revoking their draft of Mailloux.”

As for right now, Canadiens owner Geoff Molson continues to sit on his pedestal of wealth, facing some public backlash, but no material consequences for the deeply troubling message he has sent to the NHL community. The Montreal Canadiens must take concrete action to show those affected by sexual violence that they are supported within the world of hockey.

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