'On the hockey side, he was the best pick'

The Montreal Canadiens took Logan Mailloux in the first round of the NHL draft. And the fact they did that tells you everything you need to know about the culture of toxic masculinity in the game

When Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin faced his questioners Friday night after choosing defenseman Logan Mailloux in the first round of the NHL draft, he provided the following answer in French: “On the hockey side, he was the best pick.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, tells you everything you need to know about the toxic culture that surrounds this great game. You do have to hand it to “hockey people”, however. No matter how much they embarrass themselves, they simply don’t seem to care what people outside their tight little circle think about their attitudes and actions.

They just don’t care. It cannot be put any other way. They just don’t care. They don’t care that a supposedly remorseful young man asked every team in the NHL to pass on taking him in this draft because he didn’t want to be a distraction and that he needed to embark on a journey of personal growth before earning the right to be selected into the best league in the world. They don’t care about victims. They don’t care about their image. Read this again. The Montreal Canadiens don’t care about their image. All they care about is getting the best player because, you know, someday this is all going to blow over and when that happens, we’ll have a guy who can really run our power play.

Usually, when a team picks a player and justifies him as the best choice from a hockey standpoint, the only debate we all have is over what the player does on the ice and whether he merits being selected in the first round. And there are usually a lot of varying opinions and that’s all really great. However, in this case it seemed everyone but the Montreal Canadiens was united in the opinion that Logan Mailloux should not be drafted in 2021. Even Logan Mailloux thought Logan Mailloux should not have been drafted.

This is because, as you’ve probably learned by now, while playing in Sweden last fall, a 17-year-old Mailloux took a picture of an 18-year-old girl who was having consensual sex with him and distributed that photo among his teammates without her consent. He was charged with both defamation and offensive photography and was issued a fine. There seems to be some dispute whether or not Mailloux made a heartfelt apology to the victim. Even though Mailloux renounced himself from the draft, it was not binding and any team could choose him in any round. There were a good number of teams that would not have taken Mailloux under any circumstances. The Montreal Canadiens, the team that was once represented by the likes of Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Ken Dryden and Saku Koivu, was not one of those teams. They took Logan Mailloux because, “From the point of view of hockey, it was the best choice.”

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A number of times and in both of Canada’s official languages, Bergevin claimed what Mailloux did was “unacceptable.” Except it wasn’t. Aside from a fine, there were absolutely no consequences for his behavior. Bergevin went on to say that the Canadiens would go along with Mailloux on this journey of self-discovery and that he would learn a valuable lesson from making such a terrible mistake. But will he? Really? What lesson is he learning, exactly? That when you’re an entitled and talented athlete there are often no real consequences to your bad behavior? Good lesson.

It’s impossible to know whether or not Mailloux would have been chosen by any other team if the Canadiens had not pulled the trigger in the first round. But it’s important to note that the Canadiens have 10 more picks Saturday in Rounds 2 through 7. No team in the league went into this draft with as many selections. They would have had plenty of opportunities to take Mailloux later in the draft, but took him with the first of their 11 picks, 31st overall. You’d have to think they went so early on Mailloux because they were worried he wouldn’t be around at No. 63, when they are due to pick next.

And that would not be a surprise to anyone who has been around this league long enough. The NHL and its teams are very good at talking the talk. But as we’ve seen from the way the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks have chosen to handle the allegations of sexual abuse surrounding former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010 – when, by the way, Bergevin was Chicago’s director of player personnel – they rarely walk the walk. They pay lip service by claiming Hockey Is For Everyone™, but really, hockey is actually for members of some insular little society that lives by a code of toxic masculinity. And again, they just don’t care.

For his part, Bergevin claims he knew nothing about the Aldrich situation until news of the allegations broke recently. Perhaps others won’t, but we’ll take him at his word on that. Even if that were the case, did Bergevin learn nothing from that? Is he that tone deaf? Did he not for one minute consider that what he’d get in drafting Logan Mailloux might just not be worth the avalanche of criticism he and his organization will now face?

There are a lot of people who deserved better. Certainly the victim is No. 1 on that list. By choosing Mailloux, at least one team in the NHL made it crystal clear that the trauma she suffered when that photo was distributed means nothing. There were also 30 other young men who just had one of the highlights of their lives and hockey careers hijacked by controversy. They actually kind of even screwed it up for Logan Mailloux. And wasn’t it just grand to see ESPN, in its first official show as the league’s new broadcast partner, have to tell the world the lurid details of a sex crime?

Instead of telling the stories of these young men and their families and the sacrifices they made that have finally paid off, instead of talking about the Hughes brothers or how the University of Michigan owned this draft, most outlets are dragging the NHL and one of its teams through the muck. And it’s all their own doing. The NHL is really good at stuff like that. But, hey, the Canadiens got a kid who will be able to run their power play five years from now, so there’s that.

Carry on, then…