Unsurprisingly, hockey can step on a few rakes before the season even starts. It’s just surprising how unsurprising it is. It would have been bad enough for the sport to deal with The accusations of Robin Lehner of the distribution of NFL-like painkillers among the teams, coaches and players. You have more than right to doubt the messenger, as Lehner has been a self-aggrandizing megaphone for years. But it’s hardly a big leap to think that hockey players have been given painkillers and then become addicted to them, given the nature of the sport. That’s how things usually go. That’s enough of a mess in itself.
The fact that Lehner’s Twitter thread came up just hours after a racism feud in Canadian junior leagues is just… well, it’s hockey. The Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders unveiled their third jerseys for the upcoming season yesterday, and to say they were a problem would give them the best of it.
They were a throwback to a jersey and logo the Raiders used in the early ’90s, which isn’t that far in the distant past to give them a wave, because even then we didn’t know any better. We just didn’t do much about it, and it’s even less likely that a team in Prince Albert’s trading post at the time would have felt the pressure to do something about it.
But to bring these back now and think there wouldn’t have been a problem is a rarely reached level of asinine. This logo might as well come with the “HASSAN CHOP!” sound from the cartoon Bugs Bunny. It’s no surprise that the league retired these jerseys and logo just eight hours after they were unveiled. It’s just disheartening that the issue has even come up at all.
It’s kind of a juxtaposition of another WHL team, the Portland Winter Hawks, who ditched their Blackhawks copy logo for this season and went to a real hawk this year, to get away from the racist caricature the NHL is portraying. -club can not bring themselves to distance themselves from. It felt like a step forward in hockey, although now one that the Raiders swept off the board.
It’s yet another sign of how far hockey has to go as this happens at the developmental level where the stakes aren’t that high and running from racist or offensive logos doesn’t carry the marketing and merchandise risks, even those shouldn’t be a consideration. It’s no wonder that players and fans raised in these places with logos like this can’t imagine racism issues at their and higher levels of the sport.
It’s yet another example where it’s mind boggling to imagine the number of levels and people who had to agree to the Raiders throwback jersey to be announced. Didn’t anyone say, “This isn’t the best idea?” It takes more than one person to give the go-ahead, and however many numbers it takes, the Raiders went 0-fer.