NHL Baggage - Dubious Decisions Raise Questions

10:00 AM EST
min - read
Willow Baker
10:00 AM EST
min - read

What’s the Line for Acceptable?

Within the pantheon of garbage television, Baggage holds a special role as a warped dating show that offered real social insight.

Baggage contestants were chosen for potential relationships based on whether their metaphorical baggage was (or wasn’t) tolerable — typically something strange, embarrassing or, in some cases, not quite legal.

The NHL is sadly no stranger to divisive contests, and reports this summer have reeked of several notable figures with significant baggage.

Now comes the debate for which is more insane: the baggage that some people carry, or the people willing to connect with such questionable individuals. 

Let’s meet some of our NHL Baggage contestants!

Welcome, Mike from Saskatchewan!

After reports of mental and verbal abuse towards players amidst his 2019 firing as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was not clear what Mike Babcock’s future in hockey would be. On July 1st, Babcock was announced as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In early media discussions, Babcock has advocated for more individualized approaches with his players, and is looking to incorporate learnings about younger generations from his recent stints with university teams.

Contestants get to lobby and explain their baggage on the show, and Babcock has acknowledged the need for a change, so it will be interesting to see how much patience he has from the audience of fans, media, and players in Columbus.

Welcome, Joel and Stan, formerly of Chicago!

After resigning from the league indefinitely in the fall of 2021 for their role in failing to report the 2010 sexual assault against Kyle Beach, new reports indicate that former NHL coach Joel Quenneville and former NHL general manager Stan Bowman have met with the league regarding reinstatement.

How important is the pedigree of three Stanley Cup rings when, to hire such individuals, would require the same blind eye they have been punished for? Beyond that, what sort of rehabilitation would be necessary or make sense to make their return okay?

The answers to these questions are still subjective and without precedent, yet NHL team interest instigated the reinstatement meetings. This showcases how past success can skew tolerance, leaving some viewers at home screaming that the baggage is too much. 

Welcome, Mystery Player(s) from London, Ontario!

Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff recently reported by podcast that members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior Championship team involved in the horrific 2018 group sexual assault could face consequences in the near future.

Some baggage may lose weight and sway over time; however, the full weight of this baggage has yet to drop. For those who may currently be playing in the NHL, how will the privilege of up to four years of NHL experience weigh against their teams’ knowledge of the situation?

Frankly, when the verdicts are in, the NHL will have a new opportunity to demonstrate how it handles — or tolerates — sexual assault. Ideally, we get the whole studio audience voicing disapproval of the contestants, like on the show.

With such dubious contestants, the NHL must recognize that baggage does not have to be tolerated, regardless of how many goals or wins may come with. With each contestant listed, their poor decisions hurting others are now standing against their connections within the hockey world, their relationships with those who they haven’t hurt.

The reality is that accepting these members back into the elite community of the NHL is accepting that their baggage is part of the NHL’s culture.

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