Earlier today, UVM Athletics announced a press conference at the Davis Center at 3:30 pm. Many of the BTV sports journalists were trying to figure out what it was, due to the suddenness of the announcement, and the fact that it was at the Davis Center (usually pressers are at the PFG complex). The theory I saw floated the most was that it would be something regarding a new arena.
Instead, it was not a positive development. It, in fact, was an all-too-familiar problem: hazing.
Four of men’s hockey’s five “leaders” (the co-captains plus three alternates) were suspended for five games, and the program was placed on probation by the university for hazing freshman players at a “party”. The only one not suspended was Travis Blanleil, who wasn’t present.
For those who don’t remember, hazing incidents are not a new thing to UVM men’s hockey. Twenty years ago, a hazing scandal hit UVM so hard that the school cancelled the rest of the season, and the coach at the time, Mike Gilligan, was never the same.
This time, the hazing wasn’t as bad, and thus the only people punished were the players doing the hazing. But to me, it’s not enough. Hazing is NEVER okay. I don’t care if it’s tradition; traditions change. For players who are meant to be LEADERS to be punching down on newbies? That’s the opposite of what I want in a leader. If I’m choosing a leader, I want my leader to help newcomers acclimate to a new environment. That isn’t what was done.
I do have to give AD Jeff Schulman, in his first year on the job, some credit. These bans will likely hurt the team on the ice, but it sends a message that this is unacceptable. Any further violations and we will repeat what happened in 1999.
Hazing shouldn’t be just “boys will be boys.” It’s a pointless tradition that does nothing but punch down. And it needs to end.
To the so-called “leaders,” I hope you learn a lesson. Was jeopardizing the program, and making us the biggest joke in college hockey, worth a few cheap laughs from bullying younger players?
To the younger players, I’m truly sorry. From the bottom of my heart. I will completely understand if you need to leave UVM or take a break. I will make sure to cheer extra loud for you.
To the athletic department and coaching staff, though we differ on the severity of the punishment, you deserve some credit for not pushing this under the rug.
To the angry money paying fans, if you still want to support UVM hockey but are (justifiably) at the men’s team, go support the women. I’m not 100% (students don’t pay for tickets; heck, for women’s, you don’t even need a ticket), but I’m pretty sure it’s cheaper, and I know Coach Plumer and his team would appreciate it.
To everyone else reading this: let’s fix our culture to ensure that this pointless, toxic nonsense stops.