Peter Soberlak is a former WHL player who now is the chair of the physical education department at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology from UBC and a master's degree in sport and exercise psychology from Queen's University. He works in sports psychology with TRU's athletic teams and with the WHL's Kelowna Rockets.
Beginning today, Soberlak becomes a contributor to Taking Note.
His first piece is his reaction to a column by Iain MacIntyre that appeared in the Nov. 8 edition of the Vancouver Sun. That column was headlined: NHL needs to watch for NFL-style brutality.
It can be found right here.
By PETER SOBERLAK
Response to Iain MacIntyre’s column in the Vancouver Sun regarding the recent scandal that has enveloped the NFL's Miami Dolphins . . .
"I don't think it can happen (in the NHL)," Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan told MacIntyre. "There are so many more football players on a team, and I think sometimes those numbers can work against you. In hockey, it's just a tighter group because there are fewer people. There are only 23 players and, for the most part, if something is going on, there are so many good people in the rooms — at least in the rooms that I've been involved in — that they won't let that happen."
"Different situation," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "I don't know what happens in every locker-room in the National Hockey League. I know what happens in ours; we're a family. We don't all get along all the time. There are some battles and bickering, but the family itself takes care of it."
Laurence Gilman, the Vancouver Canucks’ vice-president of hockey operations and assistant general manager, said simply: "Our team and our game is built on a foundation of respect. I don't think what happened (with the Dolphins) could ever remotely happen in our locker-room."
In fact, abuse, bullying and harassment is happening at some level in almost every locker-room, in every league, in every town, and on every team in organized sport, including the NHL.
To publicly deny this is showing a lack of respect and knowledge, and furthermore, sweeping an extremely important societal issue under the carpet, while discrediting and alienating individuals who have been victims of abuse, bullying and harassment at the hands of teammates and coaches.
Instead, these individuals who are seen as role models should publicly acknowledge that this is an issue that needs attention, awareness, and understanding, so organizations can develop the tools and strategies to deal with harassment and abuse.
Abuse and harassment is fundamentally based on the notion of one person’s power and influence over another person. Regardless of the number or size of the group, bystanders also are responsible for accepting and often encouraging this behaviour, which unfortunately is at the core of elite sport culture through its focus on competition, the traditions of hazing and the idea of earning one’s rite of passage to acceptance from teammates and coaches.
Most often, the abuse victim remains silent out of fear for repercussions from the abuser, the peer group, or the institution at large.
Individuals who suffer through abusive situations need a voice and an avenue to be heard in order to heal. This starts with education, awareness and understanding of the issues within these organizations. Sport is an extremely influential and pervasive component of society and should be used as a vehicle to educate and promote acceptance and understanding of abuse, bullying and harassment. Denial simply is not acceptable any longer.
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