The loss of another season is a tough but necessary pill to swallow
Sometimes the smart thing to do and the right thing to do are not necessarily the same thing.
When it comes to the fate of the remaining 22 players of University of Ottawa men’s hockey team and their now non-existent 2015–16 season, the actions of the university administration have been deeply divisive. Some believe the hockey program has been needlessly sacrificed to satisfy administrative culpability, while others are of the opinion that this hiatus is needed to cure poisonous aspects of university sports culture.
In messy situations like this—where everyone involved is caught up in such profound moral and legal minutiae—there’s really only one move they could have made: push the reset button.
It may not be the right thing to do, but this situation calls for, from the wide view of things, a practical approach that will give the U of O hockey program the time and social capital it needs to properly rebuild its squad. Some may suggest this is a weak-kneed compromise, and that people in the athletics community should stand up to supposedly self-interested politicians like U of O president Allan Rock. However, if only from a managerial standpoint, having the team wait out the next season is still the most practical thing to do.
Right now, the team is basically non-existent, without a head coach to lead them nor the necessary players to fill their ranks. To go about recruiting a new team for the upcoming season would be a disaster, since it’s unlikely they could successfully cultivate a competitive squad that could meet varsity standards in time. Furthermore, the bad press that has accumulated surrounding the university administration and their poor handling of this situation would further hinder recruitment efforts.
But aside from these logistical issues, there are the broader social implications to consider. Sexual assault is, of course, a serious topic on university campuses, with much of that scrutiny being aimed at male sports teams. And anyone who’s ever been involved in macho sports like hockey or football could tell you that the locker room is typically not a bastion of progressive discussion on social issues.
The U of O administration decided the best way to deal with this issue is to cut
out at the root. It’s not necessarily the “right” approach, since 22 men are now saying their reputations have been damaged because of their association to the two that have been charged. The university also doesn’t score any points for transparency, since any evidence of possible wrongdoing on part of the remaining players has not been made public.
But it’s still the “smart” move to make, since wiping the slate clean and clearing away the 2015–16 season is the most expedient way of showing good faith on the university’s part. While Rock and company are certainly looking to cover their own asses, they are also—whether intentionally or not—making sure there can be a hockey program to come back to in the fall of 2016.
So while the suspension of the next hockey season will definitely hurt for fans, the hiatus will, hopefully, pay off in the long run. Not only will the U of O hockey program get a chance to properly rebuild itself, but they will also get a chance to cultivate a more positive, sustainable program in the process.