The OHL broke new ground in the on-ice conduct department when it suspended Peterborough Petes forward Josh Maguire for on-ice “bullying”. Maguire dropped his gloves and punched another player who wanted no part of the fight. While we have seen players jump other players before (Ray Emery on Braden Holtby earlier this season), this is the first time that it has been classified as bullying.
What Maguire did was wrong and the OHL made the right move in suspending him. We cannot ignore the larger questions that this will raise. The suspension was in response to a physical act, and so far the OHL hasn’t indicated that they will be reprimanding players for what they say on the ice. However, maybe all levels of hockey should consider holding players accountable for all actions on the ice, including what the language they use.
I understand it is hockey and players are going to try to get under the oppositions skin. But in this day and age, where the NHL and most teams are partnering with the You Can Play Movement, maybe some things should be off limits.
The NFL introduced a controversial rule this offseason, where players can be flagged for a fifteen yard penalty for using racially insensitive or homophobic language, either towards their opponent or their own players. While many are upset that the league is trying to control the trash talking that is a part of the game, it shows the NFL is trying to learn from the Richie Incognito bullying scandal.
If the NHL is going to preach acceptance and the “if you can play, you can play” message, then they need to back that up in the rule book by having a zero tolerance policy when it comes to racism or homophobia on the ice. I understand this opens up a can of worms, as how can a ref be expected to determine when a player has crossed the line, but I think any mature adult recognizes racism or homophobia when they hear it.
A simple two minute trip to the penalty box for “unsportsmanlike conduct” should send a clear message. It would be a controversial decision, but it’s the only way for the NHL to practice what they preach.