On Thursday, as stars from across the NHL gathered in Las Vegas for the media tour, posing for pictures to be used for the next several months and promotional material for the league to sprinkle all over social media, the tough hockey question of the summer was asked.
Hockey Canada — the governing body of the sport for that country — has been exposed as a rotten organization from the very top. Most notably, the complete disregard and malpractice in handling the 2018 sexual assault of a young woman at the hands of several members of the World Juniors team from that year. While the legal proceedings are still ongoing, some NHL players have been finally asked to comment about the situation — specifically Canadian players.
Nathan MacKinnon focused on how the assault “was not okay,” and the Colorado Avalanche center expressed some condolences. Connor McDavid gave possibly the worst answer he could have given, continuing to say that he was still proud to represent Hockey Canada and be Canadian, and said that the situation was “terrible for everybody.” I am not too sure saying that painting a sexual assault with a broad brush and saying the situation is terrible for both the victim and the assaulter, is the best thing to say as someone representing the top of the NHL.
Among the safe and solemn quotes, Cale Makar decided to take the next step and speak publicly about the conversation he has had with his family about the case.
“My parents talk about all the fees that they paid Hockey Canada and yada, yada, for me to be able to play, and then for all this stuff that came out, I can only imagine the amount of parents that were thinking, ‘Oh, that is where my fees [go],’” Makar said Thursday.
Makar is referencing the fact that Hockey Canada has been using registration fees to fund the cover-up of all sexual assault claims across the country. The 23-year-old Conn Smythe and Norris Trophy winner continued, expressing the need for the sport’s culture and identity to be changed immediately.
“It’s obviously a very tough look,” he said. “The identity and the culture definitely needs to be changed. It’s just that time.”
This is made even more significant by the fact that Makar himself was a member of that 2018 World Juniors team. Earlier, he made it clear that he was not part of the alleged eight players that committed the sexual assault and was not knowledgeable of it happening. From the start of the investigation, Makar has been cooperative and was interviewed about the event. He also continues to show that he is more than willing to participate in the investigation.
“I’m completely open-book,” Makar said. “I’ll be ready for whatever. Whatever they need, basically, I’ll be there.”
In the hockey world, we have been accustomed to expecting not even the bare minimum of emotion from players when speaking publicly, but just anticipating the agnostic approach to saying anything about what they’re thinking or feeling. Even if it is just as simple as recognizing and repeating what so many other hockey personalities have been saying since the assault was first spoken of, Makar has taken that next (and easy) step to call out Hockey Canada and knows that several changes need to be made.
It is not a whole lot — and a million times less than what the stars of other sports talk about when it comes to politics or bringing up something that they disagree with — but it is the start. The opening of a door that has barely been nudged ajar. Let’s just hope that players become more comfortable with speaking on these topics that were usually met with silence or apathy.