Marc Bergevin made a hockey decision Friday night. The Montreal Canadiens general manager got up in a room full of his employees during the NHL's virtual draft and announced the club's first-round pick at No. 31: defenseman Logan Mailloux.
I'm not sure what the mood was like in Montreal, but those of us watching the broadcast watched in horror as Bergevin chose a player who was fined for a crime of a sexual nature and asked teams not to pick him as a result.
Mailloux, at 17 years old, took a photo of a woman he was engaged in a consensual sexual act with in Sweden without her consent and showed his teammates on Snapchat without her knowledge. He was not arrested but fined for offensive photography constituting an invasion of privacy and defamation.
There was quite a bit of consternation about it in the NHL, and Mailloux was asked about it in his predraft interviews. He received backlash in the Swedish press and eventually decided to renounce his draft rights.
"The NHL draft should be one of the most exciting landmark moments in a player's career, and given the circumstances, I don't feel I have demonstrated strong enough maturity or character to earn that privilege in the 2021 draft," he wrote in a statement on Twitter. "I know it will take time for society to build back the trust I have lost, and that is why I think it is best that I renounce myself from the 2021 NHL draft and ask that no one select me this upcoming weekend."
There is no formal mechanism in place to withdraw from consideration in the NHL draft. Once the paperwork is submitted to the NHL's central registry, he is free to be drafted, so the Habs were always free to make this pick.
"You cannot remove yourself from the draft," Bergevin said after selecting Mailloux. "Even if he said so, you're eligible to be drafted, so that was clear with the league."
But there is an easy way to get around that: Take him off your draft board, as 11 teams did, according to The Athletic.
Instead, Bergevin and his director of amateur scouting, Martin Lapointe, chose to do the opposite. It was more than just tone-deaf, it was an insult to every woman in the organization, every woman in Montreal and every female NHL fan who has ever experienced sexual assault or harassment. The Habs made a calculated decision that Mailloux was worth the backlash, indicating they don't really care about his behavior off the ice and what kind of message that sends to their fans and their community.
The club quickly released a statement after the selection. The statement said the club will not minimize Mailloux's actions and that he had admitted to a serious mistake. Bergevin doubled down on this "mistake" narrative in his press conference following the draft.
"We understand, and we're fully aware and we as an organization think it's very unacceptable," Bergevin said. "But also, it's a young man that made a terrible mistake. He's 17 years old and he's willing and he understands and he's remorseful and he has a lot of work to do, but he already started to put it behind him and have a hockey career."
Really, if you have to release a statement like this, then you should probably realize it's the wrong pick. The Canadiens seem to think this is just a mistake that can be undone if Mailloux just gets a chance to get on with his life and play some hockey. But it can never be undone for the woman in Sweden, who told The Athletic she doesn't "think that Logan has understood the seriousness of his behavior" and that all she has "wanted is to get justice for the actions he has taken against me."
"I know I caused a lot of harm to this person and their family, and I regret doing this stupid and egotistical act," Mailloux told reporters Saturday morning. "I deeply regret it. What I did now is unfortunately a part of both her life and mine. I've apologized to her but, nonetheless, this will follow her for the rest of her life. And for that, I deeply and sincerely regret it."
Mailloux said he is attending counseling, and he expressed remorse. But this entire incident further exposes how broken this culture is.
It's not just hockey culture that is broken, it's sports culture in general. For too long the men in charge of sports have been willing to overlook these things as long as elite athletes remain elite.
In one example among many, Trevor Bauer is under criminal investigation after a woman filed a restraining order against him. The Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander, who won the National League Cy Young Award with the Cincinnati Reds last season, has been accused of choking the woman until she lost consciousness on multiple occasions, punching her in several areas and injuring her to the point of hospitalization over the course of two sexual encounters earlier this year.
Bauer's co-agents, Jon Fetterolf and Rachel Luba, have refuted the allegations and deny the woman's account of what happened.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred acted slowly in placing Bauer on administrative leave. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the league recommended the team let Bauer make his regularly scheduled start on July 4 against the Washington Nationals. The Dodgers, not wanting to get slapped with a grievance from the MLBPA, complied and said they would not skip his start.
After Roberts told reporters the issue was "out of [the Dodgers'] hands," the wife of an MLB player messaged me. Being a victim of sexual assault herself, she asked how she was supposed to feel going to her husband's games. The issue itself was triggering, and she felt as if MLB were giving a big middle finger to all of the women who had experienced similar atrocities and was essentially saying "it's not our problem."
What can they do about serious allegations against their players? It's out of their hands!
Bergevin is sending a similar message. But if you look at his track record, he always has.
This is the general manager of a team that was reportedly interested in Slava Voynov after he was suspended indefinitely after pleading no-contest to misdemeanor corporal injury to a spouse in 2015. His wife told police that Voynov choked her, pushed her to the ground and kicked her multiple times, and shoved her into a television screen on Halloween in 2014.
This is the general manager of a team that reportedly had an interest in signing problematic defenseman Tony DeAngelo a few months ago. Among other issues, in 2014, DeAngelo was suspended in the OHL for directing slurs at a teammate.
This is the same general manager who recently hired Sean Burke, who pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife in 1997, as the Habs' director of goaltending.
It wouldn't have been hard to pass on Mailloux. A lot of other teams did it.
There were rumors that Mailloux might be taken in a later round, and Bergevin was likely worried he would lose his guy. By selecting him in the first round and being "proud" to do so, Bergevin might as well have gotten on Zoom and told all of the women on the call that they don't matter and that he doesn't care if he's alienating an important part of the fanbase.
Their former skills coach, Paul Vincent, told TSN that in a 2010 meeting, he shared with then-president John McDonough, vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, general manager Stan Bowman and team sports psychologist James Gary that two players had told him then-video coach Bradley Aldrich had sexually assaulted them. Vincent said the executives chose not to go to the police.
Bergevin, the Blackhawks' director of player personnel at the time, has said he was unaware of the allegations and will participate in the independent investigation.
Mailloux said publicly the right things, but Montreal did the wrong thing. The hockey rationale that he was the best player available doesn't hold up in this instance. There were other defensemen they could have taken at No. 31. Lots of them. Bergevin and the Habs gave Mailloux a free pass, excused his actions and showed others that they too can behave badly and still be chosen in the first round of the NHL draft.
This was never just a simple hockey decision because it's not simple for the victim on the other end of this. It's incredibly complex. It's a mess, but it's a mess of hockey's own creation.