Time to make hazing a thing of the past

DOUG LUNNEY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

I applaud Ontario Hockey League commissioner Dave Branch for taking a tough stance against Windsor Spitfires coach and GM Moe Mantha over a hazing incident.

It's about time someone tried to bring an end to the abuse.

But people are sadly mistaken if they think stuffing four naked players in a bus washroom is the worst example of rookie hazing.

The first hazing incident I witnessed was the worst. I was 15 in 1979 when I attended my first Manitoba Junior Hockey League camp with the Selkirk Steelers.

The naked victims were ordered to tie a skate lace to the end of their penis, then lay on the dressing room floor. Several more laces were tied to the lace and it was tossed over a pipe in the ceiling. At the other end it was weighted down with a pail that contained a few pucks.

If the victim squirmed or complained while he was being shaved head to toe -- or if he didn't show enough anguish -- the veterans would toss more pucks into the pail.

Fortunately, by the time I made the Steelers at 17, the hazing was reduced to shaving without any tugging of body parts. Other than getting disapproving looks from teachers who thought I was a punk with a bad haircut and no eyebrows, I got off easy compared with many.

I made the jump the next season to the Western Hockey League, joining a team in Kelowna. The team's captain was 20-year-old Mike Babcock, who was mature beyond his years.

No hazing

A tough, hard-working defenceman with moderate skills but great leadership qualities, Babcock stood up in the dressing room and made it clear there would be no hazing on his team.

A year later my junior career brought me back to Winnipeg, where hazings continued with the Warriors (now in Moose Jaw). Some players had heard of Babcock's stance in Kelowna and were sour that I never endured the torment in my rookie year.

Like the Spitfire rookies, I remember about six Warrior rookies jammed naked into a foul-smelling bus washroom. They had previously handed their clothing to several veterans who tied it into knots. The vets tossed the clothing into the washroom and the rookies weren't allowed out until they'd untied the knots and dressed themselves in their own clothing.

Worst yet to come

But the worst was yet to come for the last two to exit. They each had to tie a skate lace to the end of their penis. The laces were then tied together and they had to participate in a tug-of-war in the bus walkway. I don't know how one of them wasn't seriously injured in that incident.

A couple of years later, I joined the University of Manitoba Bisons. Like Babcock, Bison coach Wayne Fleming wouldn't permit any hazing. Maybe that has something to do with why Babcock and Fleming are now coaching in the NHL.

This practice did nothing to enhance team unity, which was the excuse veterans used. I can only guess most coaches felt the same way, since the acts took place in dressing rooms or on buses.

With word yesterday that McGill University officials cancelled the remainder of their football team's season, following the alleged sexual assault of a player with a broomstick, it's clear hazings haven't subsided.

When Mantha was suspended on Tuesday for rest of the regular season as a GM and 40 games as coach of the Spitfires, there must have been junior coaches all over Canada thanking their lucky stars they hadn't suffered such a penalty for turning a blind eye.

It's too bad for Mantha that he's paying the price for a junior hockey tradition that should have died decades ago.

Doug Lunney is The Sun's assistant managing editor.


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