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The Verbal Culture of Hockey Must Change

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Ryan Getzlaf gets fined $10K for something that Andrew Shaw was suspended for. This part of hockey culture needs to change.

Anaheim Ducks v Nashville Predators - Game Three Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Ryan Getzlaf was fined $10,000 dollars today for using homophobic language towards a referee in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals.

How can you hold a Hockey Is For Everyone month, where some teams specifically had Pride Nights, and have the captain of one of the best teams in the league, only come away with a fine for using a homophobic slur against a referee? This just shows that last year’s suspension of Andrew Shaw, and having Hockey is for Everyone Month really didn’t do anything other than make some organizations feel better.

That’s right folks, Getzlaf gets a fine for yelling a homophobic slur at a veteran official, whilst Andrew Shaw was suspended for one game. Getzlaf is the captain of his team in the Western Conference Finals and Andrew Shaw is a third line player on a team who was knocked out first round. Yes, the words were different, but that doesn’t make any difference. This situation needs to stop happening.

Why?

As a Queer fan, it makes me feel like everything that Hockey Is For Everyone month was about was just to save face from the incident with Andrew Shaw last season. As a Queer member of the online media, how am I supposed to feel comfortable speaking to a player that seemingly hates everything about who I am, just by saying a word?

Any time a player continues to use homophobic language, it hurts the change of this part of hockey culture. In an age where it is statistically more likely that there is a Queer player on a team than not, this is an issue.

Andrew Shaw’s suspension was a start. Ryan Getzlaf’s fine should be a stepping stone. The Duck’s have said that he will be speaking about the incident after the game, which I’m sure will be a well-rehearsed apology, with little substance and meaning. Everyone will take it as gospel and they will move on. That’s not how it should work anymore.

Ryan Getzlaf should donate $10k to a local LGBT+ Community/Crisis Center. He should perhaps volunteer time as well. Show that you are actually sorry for what you said and help a marginalized community. Some will not want the help if they know who he is and what he did, but any help for some is greater than most know.

Time For Change

It’s time the NHL takes homophobic slurs more seriously. The ‘degree’ of term shouldn’t mean anything in this day and age. You use a slur, you miss a game, it’s as simple as that. The players that are coming into the league now have been exposed to this start of a culture shift.

A shift where they may have a teammate who has come out to them and made them promise not to tell anyone. A shift where they are being taught not to use homophobic and transphobic language on the ice. A shift that is rippling through all of the hockey leagues from the Canadian Junior team through to the NWHL and beyond.

This type of language cannot be tolerated any longer. There are too many people that this can affect in an instant. It could trigger panic attacks in some people, rage in others. This also applies to anyone who misgenders Sidney Crosby, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Corey Perry in chants and signs. This is also not okay.

The hockey world is largely ruled and covered by straight, white males. It’s going to take a lot of time to change the culture, but we can start to educate people before fans feel like they can’t support players, teams, or the league any longer.

I am proud of who I am and what I do. These actions make it hard for me to stay focused on what my mission is. My mission is to provide good hockey coverage for everyone. Every gender, every race, every person in every way. We have to start having this conversation again. We need to start talking about homophobic slurs, casual misogyny, and other slurs that come up.

This is the second time this week a professional athlete has used a homophobic slur, but in baseball’s case, they suspended Kevin Pillar. The NHL just gave Ryan Getzlaf a fine.

I just want to not have to keep writing these pieces each season. Last year it was Shaw, this year Getzlaf. Who should we bet on next?