Friday, November 28, 2008

Blog blast past: The hockey establishment should not skate on David Frost

As you heard, ex-hockey coach and agent David Frost was acquitted this morning in Napanee on four counts of sexual exploitation stemming from incidents that occurred when his coach the defunct Quinte Hawks team in the 1990s. The presiding judge says the case "exposed a dark and very unhealthy side of hockey" that is "extremely offensive and must be denounced." It's pretty clear that the prosecutor failed to understand that reality. and that Frost, even in victory, is has inspired a new word, "scumball." From Nov. 4, here is the site's take, after the trial concluded.

The hockey mafia, quote-unquote, will easily be able to put some plausible deniablity between itself and David Frost's criminal trial in Napanee, Ont.

Frost, plain and simple, is a grotesque -- the figure whom by his mere existence highlights the hypocrisies of the society than shuns him.

The hockey establishment, though, will get off and that's a shame. Some of the stuff that came out in court happened as far back as 1996. Let's be honest, most media outlets and most sports fans would rather read about who's in first place or who's leading the NHL scoring race than what has amounted to a "very thin case against a very creepy defendant," to quote today's National Post. This ties in with what the late David Foster Wallace once wrote about the insular world of the modern elite athlete: Sometimes it's better not to know.

Perhaps people do know and don't want it staring back at them over their morning coffee. This suggests deeper examination is needed. Player agent Gilles Lupien told the Globe & Mail today, "The culture of junior hockey has to change."

Hockey goes through a bout of hand-wringing every decade or so. Ten years ago there was a national summit over in the wake of Canada losing to Kazakhstan at the 1998 world juniors and failing to medal at the Nagano Olympics. We can have a royal commission over losing some gold medals, but not over the damage that is potentially being done to young men and women for the sake of the chosen few who break into the NHL and the a couple of thousand armchair coaches in the stands..

Sick is probably too strong a word for that syndrome. There are other pressing concerns in society in general, but people should not bury their hands in the snowbank now that Frost's trial is done and he will soon crawl back under his rock as soon as the fraud charges he is also facing make it through the system.

The game is forfeiting its right to, as they say, police itself. Granted, who has the legitimacy and unimpeachable credibility to stand up and reform it? (Sit down, Dick Pound.)

"I found too many cases where the 'justice' system propped up the hockey mythology and abandoned girls, blind to the cyclical nature of sexual abuse because such ugliness could not be part of hockey. In a subculture presided over with an iron fist, where, as players testified earlier this month, garbage and garbage cans were thrown over players who didn't play well, and players were even punched in the face, everyone became a victim." -- Laura Robinson, Oct. 31

"A lack of oversight by the powers-that-be in the hockey world allowed (Frost) to run roughshod over players. Sure, there was disciplinary action and a court appearance after he allegedly assaulted one of his own players in full view of hundreds of spectators, but at the end of the day, the courts and the hockey people didn't seem to do enough." -- some fat, dumb and bald guy, Aug. 9, 2006
A big plank in the defence lawyer Marie Henein's argument is that what happened at Room 22 is commonplace enough in hockey world. In effect, it's like a society unto itself, with its own mores, conventions and rules and anyone who enters into is consenting -- even at 16 or 17 years old. Her job is to create enough reasonable doubt that her client goes free, bottom line.
"She argued that group sex goes on commonly in the hockey world, not just around the Deseronto team.

" 'Hockey is not on trial,' Henein said. 'It may not be a good thing, it may not be a nice thing, but it happens, and Mr. Frost didn't invent it.' " -- Kingston Whig-Standard
Fair enough. It should not happen again. Thinking it will not is naive by a factor of 10. The other side of the coin is that, on balance, junior hockey, from the OHL all the way down to Junior C, offers something positive in a lot of smaller communities in Canada. It fills in the gaps during the long winter.

Sometimes you have to compartmentalize, not unlike the anonymous commenter who weighed in here yesterday.
Here is my two cents. I played under Frost for several years.

One of the Best Coach's.

Bad Roll Model.

However, he did give me some tools in life which have helped me excel.

Thanks Dave
That might be truer than anything that has come from the chattering class during the past couple weeks. Change is coming in these small Canadian towns. Robinson writes of how hockey is a ticket out for boys in small communities, but there is nothing commensurate for females. One irony is that this very week, Napanee happens to be hosting the Canadian under-18 women's hockey championship. Girls hockey in the community was only started a few years prior to Frost's arrival in the area. Now it's seen as a tourism draw.

Changing is coming, in some ways. It's just not happening fast enough.

Sex, lies and hockey tape (Patrick White, Globe & Mail)
Hockey's seamy side on display (Father Raymond J. De Souza, National Post)
'Hockey is not on trial,' judge told (Kingston Whig-Standard)
What about the girls? That the women testifying at the David Frost trial are not considered victims tells us a lot about sex, power and junior hockey (Laura Robinson, Ottawa Citizen, Oct. 31)


DR said...

Excellent post. Sad situation.

I have been away and haven't seen much of Sportscentre or Connected, but have they covered this at all? Should they be? I sort of think yes, but am curious to see what you think.

sager said...

Since the trial started, I haven't seen much on it on the half-hour highlight shows.

In the case of the paper I work at, news has been taking the Frost coverage. The Citizen/CanWest also has a news reporter there. Perhaps sometimes it's good to have that perspective.

Duane Rollins said...

I agree that news should be there. But, sports should too. I think this needs to be covered from both perspectives.

Dennis Prouse said...

Why do I get the sinking feeling that Frost is going to walk? His lawyer (smart move for him to have a female lawyer) may have succeeded in making it sound as if these kinds of activities are normal in the hockey world. The thing is, they aren't. I knew a lot of guys who played, and none of them were having group sex in the coach's hotel room. This is the classic defence - "Everyone else does it too", and as you point out, it's about the only card the defence can play here. It's not true, though. The prosecution should be calling guys like Brian Kilrea and Dick Todd, and asking them if they had ever heard of such things happening in junior hockey in their experience. The answer, of course, would be no. Now, junior hockey is far from lily white, as we know from the hazing scandals. What Frost was doing, though, was uniquely abusive, and to claim that it was just part of the culture is flatly inaccurate.

Pete Toms said...

Man oh man, where to start? In no particular order....

I surf the sports shows 5 mornings a week while I exercise, and I've seen nothing - or practically nothing - about this. Rightly or wrongly, they don't cover it because their viewers aren't interested.

Frost is guilty of everything he is accused of. The Jefferson / Danton / Frost situtation is screwed up beyond belief. Fact is stranger than fiction.

Frost is only the lastet. Fraser/Kennedy and Stuckless/Kruze are equally abhorrent.

Yes Dennis, smart move to have a woman lawyer, didn't Edelson's firm rep Frost? He ( Edelson ) is a scumbag.

Sorry Dennis, I'm no big Kilrea fan. The Galbraith rape trial ( I know he was acquitted ), Bell & Boynton beating the crap out of a cab driver. Everybody was willing to overlook those incidents because, 1. it's hockey 2. Kilrea is god and he'll handle it 3. all 3 guys were frontline players.

Plenty of folks in Desoronto were willing to overlook what Frost was doing because the team was popular. ( ie. good ) They stank before he got there and everybody loves a winner.

Shameful, all of it.

Neate, you've done a good job on this for an extended period. I always think of your remark about the "omerta culture" of junior hockey ( or perhaps it was sports in general ) when I read about this. Very well stated.

Robert C. said...

Had Sportsnet on at noon during the HockeyCentral simulcast. Darren got a text message from a reporter about the verdict. Kypreos and him were talking about the Leafs.

Darren spent 30 seconds on the verdict and then said "well, let's back to the Leafs". And it wasn't brought up again during the show..... wish I was kidding but it was just like that.