Citizen Reporting: Expand this report to cover the gender and racial biases that have been tolerated in NHLPA functions.
The corruption scandal that recently rocked the National Hockey League erupted this summer as just another small-town county hockey match in northern Michigan — until it became an issue that the NHL is really not capable of taking seriously. There is the issue of the NHL and its NHLPA (Players Association) having ignored some of the “systemic and systemic deficiencies in the game of hockey” for decades in order to protect what they consider to be their biggest advantage — their players are cheaper. And with their players still only commanding a couple of million dollars a year, there is the issue of the NHL personnel who benefited from this coverage. It turns out that majority of the NHL officials implicated in the scandal weren’t exactly shockers.
Let’s start by looking at the Canadian radio host who first broke the story, Paul Benoit, whom the Globe and Mail profiled. Benoit began playing “baseball and soccer games” in his hometown. The sports director of the Southern Ontario paper The Telegram, he realized that the ice was still the best place to get athletes to the spot where the paper was headquartered. This made that possible as well. The genius wasn’t just the professional hockey team, but a scout’s job as a kid, back when professional sport was still a higher revenue producing commodity than any other. Benoit also received a 4-year-old ironworking machine to clear the ice and apply heat, and was invited to see the most high-end play ever in the NHL at the Anaheim Ducks in early 1984. He remembers Tim Horton’s employee (and NHL Chief Operating Officer) Roger Neilson as a guy who, when the day came to count the money, volunteered to go to the bank for instructions — he took it upon himself to avoid the security detail. When one brother-in-law got a raise, Benoit recalls Neilson asked what it was worth — $25, he answered, adding that the increase should have come in 25 cents each. In our article, Howard Beck calls NHL International Affairs chief William Daly a “classic corruptee,” giving him the questionable title of a “legitimate captive of power.”
The scandal’s sister story is the 40-year-old woman who was first caught stealing $1,300 from each of the team’s young players, along with her equal’s spouse, who was a prospective investor in the team. She served three years in prison before she was released at the end of May.
Now let’s look at the infighting that was repeated over and over again, with the most prominent skirmish stemming from the Stanley Cup Final in 2003 when the Bruins and Lightning settled things with “expletive deleted messages” tweeted and faxed, according to Dan Rosen of the Boston Globe. Frankly, you can’t even get five seconds on Twitter without being insulted by someone else, and the results were then repeated again in 2011, when the league’s representatives in the league office weren’t helping make the case for the hire of Richie Williams — now serving life sentence for gunpoint murder of a police officer — and by Michael Winter at the Boston Globe.
Finally, let’s take a look at the sports agent who was the strongest voice in demanding drastic changes to the league and its players association. Mark Rodgers, who was the agent for the “Undertaker” T.J. Black, allegedly doctored the player’s NHL-issued driver’s license. Almost exactly a year ago, he fought the NHL and tried to adopt son Darren Fowler to the players association. He actually used the death of Fowler’s sister, allegedly murdered in an affair by Black’s wife, as the reason for moving. Does anyone care?