(Photo via Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)
Lost among several recent, unfortunate stories of sexual misconduct throughout the hockey world, Logan Mailloux signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens earlier this month. The Habs controversially selected Mailloux 31st overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, after Mailloux withdrew his name from the Draft.
Mailloux was convicted by a Swedish court in December 2020, for taking a photograph of a woman engaging in a sexual act and distributing the picture to his teammates, without her consent. He also sent a screenshot of the victim’s online profile, which included her photo, first name, and age (she was 18 – the age of majority in Sweden). Mailloux was 17 years-old (a minor) at the time of the incident, and was playing on loan overseas, while the Ontario Hockey League was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mailloux was ultimately charged with and convicted of defamation and “Kräkande fotografering,” or offensive photography. Sweden adopted this law banning the secret photographing or filming of someone in a private place in 2013; offenders face a penalty of either a fine, or a maximum of two years in prison. Mailloux was ordered to pay 14,300 Swedish krona (about $1,650 USD), “by way of a criminal injunction that relieved the matter from the court system.”
Subsequently, the Ontario Hockey League indefinitely suspended Mailloux in September 2021 for conduct that “violated the League’s expectation of the appropriate conduct of an OHL player,” before reinstating him in January. The OHL noted that “a decision regarding reinstatement will be based in part on his conduct since his return to Canada and the appropriate treatment, counselling, mentoring, and or education he receives from the date of this decision.”
Canadiens General Manager Kent Hughes said of Mailloux’s signing: “This is a decision that we have thought through carefully. Having Logan around members of our team and hockey operations staff for a good part of the summer allowed us to gain a greater appreciation of Logan Mailloux the person.” Hughes continued, “he has an opportunity to affect positive change and we will work to support him in any effort towards that goal. Logan recognizes the impact of his gesture and of course, the process continues.”
While this all may be true, The Athletic’s Arpon Basu asked Canadiens owner Geoff Molson in January whether added diversity within the organization would have prevented the selection of Mailloux – a decision that Canadiens President of Sports and Entertainment, France Margaret Bélanger, called “far from optimal.” Molson replied, “yes, it probably would have. But it might not have accelerated our commitment to what we’re going to do now, moving forward, since the mistake was made. There’s no two ways to look at it, and I’m inherently a forward-looking person. I believe everyone makes mistakes and it’s what you do about it that really counts, and that’s what we’re doing.” So, there is apparent regret with regards to the initial selection of Mailloux, but the club evidently believes that singing him to his entry-level deal is “forward-looking.”
Herein lies the debate. Most, if not all, can agree that what Mailloux did was objectively wrong, a blatant violation of personal privacy and dignity, and flat-out immature. The question seems to be, however, whether his wrongdoing – and apologies/attempts at redemption, to this point – amount to being deserving of a second chance. Juxtaposing Mailloux’s error with some of the other egregious stories that have surfaced across the hockey community lately, hockey fans and pundits have opined as to where on the “second chance spectrum” this incident falls. While this seems like a futile practice, it is worth questioning where this second chance “line” should be drawn.
Our society loves a second chance story. But typically, some sort of redeemable quality is necessary to generate support for the individual fighting for that second chance. Does Mailloux’s status as a minor, and thus, his youthful immaturity, count as one such quality? Is he more deserving of a second chance than, say, a 27-year-old in the same situation? Because there was no “physical harm,” is his mistake more redeemable than one in which physical pain is inflicted?
It is unclear who, if anyone, is equipped to make this judgment. We seem to societally agree that certain acts are irredeemable and definitively undeserving of a second chance. Mailloux’s victim, and her loved ones, will carry the weight of this incident for years to come, if not forever. This situation, however, appears to fall into a gray area for many. On one hand, we are addressing sexual misconduct issues and their perpetrators much more proactively and punitively than ever before. On the other, many believe that this was simply a childish mistake, one that he has served his punishment for, and not one that should cost him his professional career.
Is one “childish mistake,” and the privilege to continue playing professional sports, in exchange for the victim’s dignity and potential re-traumatization a fair trade? Is there credence to the idea that we should honor punishments previously served, and, going forward, allow these individuals a second chance to rehabilitate themselves, and become positive influences on their communities? Where should this line be drawn?
Regardless of any possible underlying motivation, the club is seemingly keeping its promise in terms of affecting change in this space. Last September, the Canadiens launched a “Respect and Consent Action Plan,” aimed at educating players, employees, and the public about respect and consent, as well as the dangers and consequences of sexual cyberviolence. The program is designed to impact both the internal environment of Groupe CH, the parent company for the Canadiens, and the external environment – the community. This includes a $1 million investment geared towards these initiatives.
The club also brought in former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of his junior hockey coach, to speak to the rookies, which included Mailloux. Kennedy is one of the co-founders of Respect Group, whose mission is “empowering people to recognize and prevent bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD) through interactive, online training courses.” The Canadiens sought out Kennedy’s advice amidst the backlash over the Mailloux draft selection; now, Kennedy’s Respect Group has partnered with the NHL, making e-learning resources available to all 32 clubs.
Kennedy noted that his first brief interaction with Mailloux “was authentic and he was compassionate. When I spoke with Logan, it was real.” Kennedy went on to say, “we could communicate about the issues at hand . . . we had a healthy conversation and I hope nothing but the best for Logan and that he continues to learn and be the best he can be in this space.”
While this endorsement was a significant one for Mailloux, Kennedy’s comments about the direction of the organization were even more interesting. “If you look at the NHL and the magnitude of the branding of all these teams, you look at the Montreal Canadiens, it is the significant strength of the brand, they have an opportunity to lead in this space. And this is what we need to do. And I think that what I see from the Montreal Canadiens is a commitment to lead in this space. And to me, that’s how we’re going to have significant change.”
Perhaps, Kennedy is right. Maybe the Canadiens are taking the opportunity to use their platform and brand power to transform a prior mistake into a larger societal good. Or, maybe they are simply refusing to admit to this initial mistake, and continue to compound mistakes for the sake of roster building. What has more of an impact: embracing someone like Mailloux and their checkered history with hopes of redemption, or the initiatives undertaken, at least partially, to deflect the public displeasure with this embracing? The hope, of course, is that the Canadiens are doing this for the right reasons, and that they truly desire to be agents of change in this space. The hockey community sure needs it at the moment.
 https://www.dailyfaceoff.com/nhl-draft-prospect-logan-mailloux-faces-uncertain-future-after-criminal-charge-in-sweden/, supra
 https://theathletic.com/3419851/2022/07/13/logan-mailloux-canadiens-prospect-progress/, supra
 https://theathletic.com/3419851/2022/07/13/logan-mailloux-canadiens-prospect-progress/ , supra
Leave a Reply