Troubling trend in team sports
University of Ottawa’s men’s hockey team suspended after alleged gang rape
Bobby Danger Jones
As sports editor of The Reflector I have tackled (no pun intended) many issues. In several instances in the past school year, I have written about the prevalence of group mentality and the negative consequences it can have on impressionable people, especially young athletes.
Lethbridge College had a drug scandal that resulted in the suspension of the entire men’s volleyball team for the remainder of the season. Additionally, I have approached and candidly explained hazing and initiation rituals. Low and behold, here we are once again in the wake of yet another issue. The University of Ottawa’s men’s hockey team was suspended Feb. 24, following the alleged exploitation of a female victim the weekend of Feb. 1, while the team was on the road in Thunder Bay for two games against the Lakehead University Thunderwolves.
Alexis Peters, a professor at Mount Royal University had a rare opportunity when she began her research a decade ago. Peters was given access to a group of Ontario Hockey League (OHL) players and the results of her ground-breaking study were alarming.
“It was the first Canadian study, with several different questionnaires…I compared them (players) to a control group to see if their attitudes did support the hypothetical theory, that they developed attitudes within this subculture, that might put them at higher risk for all forms of risky behavior and sexist attitudes, sexual harassment and in the worse-case sexual assault.”
CBC News spoke with several assistant coaches who don’t normally travel with the athletes and weren’t with the team in Thunder Bay. Their responses conflict and reflect the disconnected mentality of amateur sports. One assistant coach said the situation has been blown out of proportion, but another said the decision to suspend the team was the right one, as it reflected the seriousness of the allegation.
Peters is clear that all athletes cannot be painted with the same brush and such occurrences happen on an individual basis.
“The surveys suggested that they had attitudes…that put them at higher risk that is all, it is only attitudes suggesting higher risk, we are not measuring behaviors. The problem being with sport being sacrosanct, especially hockey in Canada, is no one wanted to follow up with any particular research, so this does not surprise me at all.”
Students at the University of Ottawa are not fast to pass judgment as no arrests have been made yet and the alleged victim was acquainted with the accused. One student interviewed by the Ottawa Sun spoke with a reporter regarding her experiences with some members of the hockey team. “I don’t think this is a reflection of the University of Ottawa as a whole,” said Rachelle Binette.
“My experiences here have only been positive.” She said she attends classes with members of the hockey team and has never found them to be sexually aggressive or violent towards women, but what goes on behind closed doors and inside a young athletes’ head may be different story.
“They (players) scored higher on rape acceptance, adversarial sexual beliefs regarding relationships and the other interesting finding was they scored lower on emotional empathy for other people’s pain.” It is not a one-way street either; it seems this not just a problem for males. Peters also found that female athletes are buying into the same system. Obviously more research is needed and should be conducted on a national level if such incidents can be prevented in the future.