By now, most people are familiar with Wayne Simmonds’ “alleged” slur directed at Sean Avery. Simmonds has denied using the word and the league refused to punish the Flyers forward because there none of the on-ice officials actually witnessed it. Part of the reason that the story has gained so much traction is because Simmonds was actually captured on video using the alleged term. Part of it is because Simmonds himself had just been a victim of a racist act only days before in London, Ontario. Regardless, the emotional climate around the game was already at a fever-pitch when Simmonds and Avery had their war of words.
One NHL coach thinks that things have gone too far. Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien said things have gotten out of control with the trash talk that occurs on the ice. In fact, Julien thinks that it’s time to start punishing players for trash talk that crosses the line:
“There’s a rule in place for certain type of language — whether it’s to referees and stuff like that, you certainly can get tossed out of a game. I’m one of those guys that believe that you know you shouldn’t be crossing the lines. There’s some things that are being said out there that are really crossing the line. Whether that’s been like that decades ago, I’m not quite sure. People are going after divorces or calling people certain names that I don’t even want to allude to here, but there is a fine line I think that has to exist.”
Let’s be clear: this isn’t first time anyone has used this particular type of language on the ice. In fact, it’s probably not the first time that exact word was use in Avery’s direction. It doesn’t make it right—but let’s not pretend like this is the first time anything like this has happened. If HBO had all 40 guys mic’d up every single game, we’d certainly hear language that would make Bruce Boudreau blush. One of the main reasons this is a huge story is because it was caught on tape.
The difference today is just how far the slurs and taunts go these days. Julien had more to say:
“There’s gamesmanship and then there’s crossing the line, and, you know, I think more and more, players today are going further than they used to.”
“You’d hoped that it would be policed by themselves, by having a little bit more respect for each other. They are part of a player’s association and they should all be part of a group. There should be at least that kind of respect that exists.”
Policing language on the ice is a slippery slope that the NHL should want no part of policing. Something that is deemed offensive to a guy like Rocco Grimaldi may be just a normal part of speech for other players around the NHL. Then again, something that Sean Avery or Wayne Simmonds may say in the heat of battle may be acceptable to them—but not acceptable to a player who is in the middle of a slump and struggling to make a team. Will the NHL be responsible to hand down a fine or suspension each and every time a player is offended by an opponent?
It’s a tough situation because many people (including this writer), do not condone a player using the Simmonds particular slur. Just like there are slurs that are highly offensive to African American athletes, Simmonds alleged insult are those that will strike a nerve with GLAAD. Just about every demographic has a few words that cross the line.
These are the easy cases—there’s no place in the game for that kind of language. Most would say there’s no place in society.
Here’s the question: who draws the line what is accepted and what is not? There’s a rather large gray area here because different people have different standards. Obviously, this is a touchy subject so we want to throw it out to the readers. What do you think? Do you think trash talking should be limited or should players continue to have free reign over what is said on the ice. Do you have any ideas of how the league could logically police trash talking?