- On December 10, 2019, the NHL's Dallas Stars coach Jim Montgomery who is from Montreal, was fired for supposed "unprofessional conduct."
- Since the firing of Don Cherry, it seems that there is a cultural shift happening in the world of hockey.
- Get all the details about the dismissal of coach Jim Montgomery!
Jim Montgomery, Montreal-born head coach of the NHL's Dallas Stars, was fired out of the blue this morning after allegations of "unprofessional conduct". Stars General Manager Jim Nill said that despite Montgomery being his hire, it was important that he "do the right thing" by dismissing the coach. The circumstances, though vague at the moment, reflect a hockey culture that was forever changed ever since Don Cherry was fired from Hockey Night in Canada.
Since the Don Cherry incident, the NHL has seen a drastic culture shift. Multiple head coaches have had to deal with abuse allegations, with one resigning after using a racial slur to refer to a player, and three more under investigation for abuse.
In response to these and in anticipation of potentially more allegations, the NHL Board of Governors brought forth an action plan to tackle racism and bullying, and to improve access to support services for those who have suffered from abusive incidents.
The NHL's action plan includes mandatory counselling for coaches and general managers, the mentioned 24/7 hotline, a zero-tolerance policy on racism, homophobic slurs, and physical violence, and finally, implementing severe fines on teams who fail to comply with league policies or who fail to report abusive incidents.
It's clear we're in the midst of a cultural shift in hockey that will forever change the sport and those who play it.
Montgomery's firing shocked everyone in the hockey world this morning. With the Dallas Stars performing above expectations this season, many believed Montgomery's job was safe.
While no one but the team's front-office knows why Montgomery lost his job, hockey pundits think that it could have something to do with hockey's rapidly changing cultural shift. Keep in mind that no allegations have come out against Montgomery, but it certainly makes you wonder.
Historically speaking, hockey coaches champion a "tough love" approach and are known for questionable methods. It's arguable how effective those methods are, but one thing's for sure - when "tough love" is outright abusive and at worst, racially-motivated, people need to start paying close attention and speak out against it.
Just days ago, the Chicago Blackhawks revealed that they are conducting an investigation on assistant coach Marc Crawford, who allegedly physically abused a player in 2006. Now fired Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock is alleged to have physically and psychologically abused his players throughout his career. Former Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters resigned because it came to light that he repeatedly hurled racial slurs at one of his players in the minor leagues over a decade ago.
The list goes on, and there's a good chance that by the end of the season, the reckoning against abusive NHL coaches will reach a fever pitch.
For years, hockey has lagged behind most other sports in terms of inclusion and diversity.
Without a doubt, the sport is predominantly white and lacks representation on many levels. The NHL is a microcosm of that reality, with a very small proportion of players of colour and no LGBTQ+ players or coaches to speak of (at least not publicly). Players like Evander Kane have said that racism in hockey is "easy to ignore", but that it's about time to "give it the attention it deserves."
The NHL is slowly coming around to the fact that they cannot continue the status quo. Along with their announced zero-tolerance action plan, their Hockey Is For Everyone campaign focuses on fostering social change in hockey communities around the world.
More can be done, however. Identifying key issues and holding those responsible for abuse accountable to their actions are just two small steps towards a complete overhaul of hockey culture.
Though the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy is a good first step, if the NHL aims to be the flagbearer of hockey's cultural shift, they must take more concrete action.
For those that are complaining about "woke culture" ruining hockey, sit down. There's a lot of work left to be done to ensure the sport can foster a culture of inclusivity, and it'll be easier if those people accept that change needs to happen.
Expect there to be a lot of change to be coming to the NHL and hockey culture as a whole over the next year. It's about time.