You always hear about the wonderful sport of hockey and its amazing “culture.” The camaraderie, the excitement, the humility of its athletes. The crazy, funny stories and the characters inside them, and all of the feel-good moments that make up a successful season. This is all part of what makes the sport great to watch and follow.
You rarely hear about the darker side until now, and perhaps there’s a reason. Surely no coach or owner would want someone to get the impression that there’s anything wrong with the game he’s trying to help revolutionize. And in a way, he’d be right. There’s nothing overtly wrong with the game itself (though even that’s arguable). There’s a lot wrong with the culture.
And it’s not surprising. In a hyper-masculine world like this one, things go wrong. Especially when it comes to the other sex, who many athletes see as just another, easier, trophy to win.
Take Islanders prospect Corey Trivino, for instance. At 22 years of age, he’s become yet another case where a kid went way off the beaten track. Charged with indecent assault and assault with attempt to rape, pled guilty to assault and battery, and was given two years’ probation, alcohol tests, AA meetings. He’s never been formally convicted of sexual assault, but that doesn’t take away the anguish his victim felt and may still feel months after the fact.
There’s also the YouTube music video that apparently Trivino and another teammate made, complete with profanities directed toward women. I can’t find any evidence of the actual video — I’m pretty sure it’s been taken down by now — but it’s been cited in Conway’s article and here on coachad.com, and the lyrics are here on Two Man Advantage. The teammate involved, Vinny Saponari, apparently also had alcohol issues and was kicked off the team after this incident. Trivino’s dismissal, however, took a little longer.
And yet, after all of this, he still expects to attend an NHL training camp this year. It doesn’t mean it’ll happen, but it’s enough that he believes it might that I feel the need to speak up.
Sure, he has his issues. BD Gallof covers them all rather succinctly in this piece written last year, and after reading it you kind of get a sense of why Trivino might be the way he is now. But does that excuse what he’s done?
Simple answer? No. It doesn’t.
Take the four words that hit both me and Jennifer Conway of Backhand Shelf the hardest in BU’s task force report on the men’s hockey team. “Culture of sexual entitlement.” That phrase extends far beyond what Trivino’s done, though it doesn’t exclude it. I could certainly talk about that culture for hours — how young athletes in every sport (not just hockey) are excused from the rules in many ways, but especially when it comes to the common decency of respecting people, particularly women.
When you’re a young hockey player, it’s easy for you to believe that you’re above everyone just because you push a puck into a net better than them. After all, everyone treats you like royalty. Even if you’re a legitimate douchebag, you’ve won some national championships and you’re going to the NHL one day, so it’s okay if you cut class regularly, get drunk a lot, or bang a lot of girls.
This may be an oversimplification, but it’s what seems to be the norm when it comes to reactions from authority figures. A wink, a smile, a lofty assertion that ”Boys will be boys,” and that’s that. So when you harbor that sentiment for so long, how can you be shocked when something like this happens? When kids who have never been told “No, you can’t do that” before grow to believe that they’ll be able to get away with it now? In that respect, you can put a lot of blame on the coaching staff and athletic directors for not implementing or enforcing rules to prevent this type of behavior.
That being said, no matter what the circumstances may be, I cannot in good faith excuse Corey Trivino or even try to justify his behavior with a simple, “Well, he was never convicted.” Sure, and I’m a legitimate journalist because I’ve been blogging since age 16. That’s not how it works, kids. Just because you weren’t caught, per se, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
It’s also very easy just to blame the culture and not the people within that culture for what they’ve done, which is why I’d like to point out that Corey Trivino is his own person with his own free will. He could have decided to get help a long time ago, and he could have simply chosen not to do something that he somehow must have known wasn’t right. It’s no big secret that going around barging into people’s rooms and trying to make out or have sex with them isn’t a good idea, drunk or sober. It’s assault, plain and simple, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of brain cells to figure that out.
In short, Trivino’s issues are such that he should be spending time in counseling, rather than on the ice. An NHL team giving him the time of day is simply enabling him. Sure, he’s got all the other stuff to deal with, but he’ll be in the big leagues doing what he loves — and what kind of lesson is that? “You’ve traumatized a young woman and probably shot your liver halfway to hell, but here’s a shot at the NHL anyway.” Some punishment.
If the Islanders decide to give Trivino a chance, they’ll be making a huge gamble. They’re also going to make me wonder whether or not I should follow them anymore. If they’d choose to endorse a player who has such a poor attitude toward the opposite sex, why should I, as a member of that sex, endorse them? I know misogyny in sports isn’t a cause many pro athletes or teams will fight against just yet, but it starts with teams simply saying, “Thanks, but no thanks — good luck somewhere else.” That gets people thinking.
I would hope I’m not the only one to think this way, but… who knows. All I know is that Corey Trivino has some serious looking in the mirror to do before he gets anywhere close to the NHL, and the Islanders should– and hopefully do — realize that.