No one does “all over the map” quite like the NHL. And almost all of it is by accident, because there isn’t a guiding light to the league as to what it wants to be, or how it would get there if it did. Stuff just happens every day in this league, most of it makes you slap your forehead. Though sometimes it’s out of wonder, to counterbalance the frustration. To wit:
🏒 Before Tuesday night’s slate of games started, news broke of a lawsuit from two former officials against the league, claiming they were fired for reporting their colleague’s racist and sexist behavior.
Dave Walkowiak and James Watkins were off-ice officials who worked Lightning games in Tampa, claiming that Pat DeLorenzo Jr. — a fellow off-ice official — continually made racist remarks about players, coaches, the national anthem singer at Amalie Arena, and just about anyone who came across his path.
“DeLorenzo also regularly made racially offensive comments about African Americans,” the lawsuit reads, and often referred to black people as “n*****s.”
The two officials repeatedly reported DeLorenzo to their supervisor, Ron Brace, and watched nothing happen. Deadspin has reached out to Brace for comment.
The kicker…well, there are two kickers. The first is that Walkowiak and Watkins claim in their suit that they provided video evidence to the NHL office of DeLorenzo’s actions. They also claim that the NHL’s lawyer ordered that tape destroyed after the league finally fired DeLorenzo, but then it also fired Wolkowiak and Watkins. This is the scorched-earth tactic of solving any problem. It’s like when Matt Damon shoots the other rat by the elevator in The Departed. Might as well leave no evidence, right?
The second kicker is it’s not the only lawsuit that’s been filed because of DeLorenzo. A Laurence P. Sullivan also sued the league after being fired, for what he said was reporting DeLorenzo. His case was settled.
Deadspin reached out to the NHL seeking comment and a league spokesman declined.
This has always been the NHL’s solution to dealing with racism, or really any problem. Instead of admitting that there is an issue and being transparent about how to address it, the league has desperately tried to keep a lid on everything, smother any controversy, and pretend there isn’t one and hope silence will carry the day. It’ll pay lip service to doing better when it has no other choice, but the rest of the time the fingers go into the ears, the head in the sand, and a forlorn hope that no one will notice. It still hasn’t figured out that in this day and age, the story will always get out. We’ll always find out. But a lot of things about hockey are stuck in 1988.
🏒 So yeah, hockey has a racism problem. This isn’t a secret. Perhaps one way to address that is to make a better connection with the Black community, to try and show that hockey can be for everyone as long as everyone is welcomed and shown what the live experience can be. It’s also a great way to show that you’re not always stuck in 1988 and only market the league to guys who passed out in the parking lot before a Cinderella show.
That’s probably what the Florida Panthers were thinking when they had Kodak Black to their game last night against Vancouver, as he’s a local artist as well. The Panthers have had attendance problems forever, and still struggle mightily to scratch out any kind of territory in the South Florida sporting consciousness. The Panthers are one of the best teams in the league, so you can see why they figure they should strike while the iron is hot.
And well, Kodak certainly had himself a time, and also struck when the iron was hot, as it were: NSFW
Now, does this help or hurt future attendance in Sunrise Arena for the Panthers? I’m going to go with the latter. Certainly Denzel Curry will be answering the phone when the Panthers call to invite him out, you’d have to imagine. MIght request a full cleaning of that skybox though. Only decent.
🏒 And at the end of the day, there are still amazing things going on on the ice most every night, which is why we’re all here I suppose. Most of them these days have to do with Cale Makar. Last week, he blitzed the Hawks in overtime, but I did my best to modestly qualify that by pointing out it was in the fake performance art that is 3-on-3.
No such caveats here:
This looks like when the older kid has been letting the smaller ones hang around for a while but has gotten bored and wants to get to lunch. That’s as casual as you can get while going top cheese on the move, against one of the league’s best goalies in Juuse Saros no less. So effortless as to be insulting.
That was Makar’s 16th goal on the year in just 29 games, and the only defenseman in the history of the game to have more than 16 goals having played so few games is Bobby Orr. When you do something that can get the phrase, “only Bobby Orr has more,” that’s the very tallest of timber.