The general managers of all 30 NHL teams will get together in Toronto today to discuss a number of subjects. Among the headliner topics such as goalie fights, international hockey and player discipline, the executives will also discuss bullying according to Renaud Lavoie of the Montreal Journal.
Bullying will be a topic today at the NHL GM meeting. NHL wants to make sure that what goes on in the NFL won't happen in hockey.— Renaud Lavoie (@LavoieRenaud) November 12, 2013
The Miami Dolphins situation involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin has the sports world buzzing, as it should. Hazing has been tradition in some locker rooms across sports, but there is a definite line.
Now hazing of any kind could be on the chopping block, which really shouldn't be that big of a deal. Rite of passage or not, the risk of that aforementioned line getting crossed and it turning into bullying or harassment can be high in the right situation.
It is certainly a topic that is worth the NHL executives' time.
The NHLPA is thinking about it to.
“If there was a bullying accusation that came to the attention of the NHLPA, this is something that would obviously be addressed,” an NHLPA spokesperson said in an email to CBSSports.com. “Harassment isn't tolerated.”
There's also language in the collective bargaining agreement that covers discrimination, but nothing that addresses bullying specifically.
7.2 Neither the NHLPA, the NHL, nor any Club shall discriminate in the interpretation or application of this Agreement against or in favor of any Player because of religion, race, disability, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, or membership or non-membership in or support of or non-support of any labor organization.
While that rule certainly helps in business situations, it's hard to see where it applies in locker rooms.
That the GMs are going to talk things out, it probably helps set up some guidelines and some options for educating the players. It isn't a bad idea to take measures to ensure the players are on the same page when it comes to how they should treat each other. You'd hope they wouldn't need that kind of guidance, but it doesn't hurt to have something in place just in case.
Several NHL players spoke out last week saying that bullying wasn't really a problem in the league, but it's still a conversation worth having.
There's more to this than being politically correct. As the Dolphins situation shows, if things get bad enough, it not only hurts the victim, it hurts the team as a whole. When it starts creeping into on-field performance or a player actually leaving or getting kicked off the team, it becomes a very real and noticeable problem.
We can't expect athletes to always like their teammates, but we should be able to expect them to treat each other with respect as professionals. By at least addressing bullying today, the NHL is taking a positive step towards making sure that respect is present in every locker room at all times.