Opinion: Second chances in the NHL should be earned, not given

Photo courtesy Pixabay

By Kaitlyn Riggio
BU News Service 

The New York Rangers placed defenseman Tony DeAngelo on waivers on Jan. 31, which, in essence, means the team’s management made DeAngelo available to all of the other teams in the NHL. 

This action is typically reserved for underperforming players. So, on the surface, it seemed to be a surprise move by the Rangers. After all, DeAngelo posted 53 points in the 2019-20 season, with 38 goals and 15 assists: impressive for a defenseman.

But in this case, placing DeAngelo on waivers had little, if anything, to do with his on-ice performance. The decision was a result of a physical altercation with his teammate, goalie Alexandar Georgiev, following an overtime loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 30.

Rangers general manager, Jeff Gorton, confirmed in a Feb. 1 news conference that DeAngelo had played his last game with the Rangers, making the incident with Georgiev a long-overdue possible last straw for DeAngelo’s time in the NHL. 

The Georgiev episode was the latest in a long string of incidents that have made DeAngelo infamous off the ice over the course of his professional hockey career. During a stint in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2014, he was suspended for eight games after using a slur against one of his teammates.

He was suspended again in Oct. 2014 for a verbal altercation with a referee.

It’s a shock that the 25-year-old was afforded a chance to play in the NHL after not one, but two OHL suspensions for similar violations. Maybe the hope was DeAngelo’s attitude would change after some time in the NHL.  

But he failed to improve and continued to make the same mistakes.

On Dec. 31, playing for the Arizona Coyotes, DeAngelo was suspended for three games after physically abusing a referee.

This is not even mentioning his unbecoming behavior outside the rink, namely, the use of his Twitter account to share alleged claims of COVID-19 denial and election fraud, and other instances of “maturity issues” on the teams he has played for.   

This latest incident with Georgiev should have never happened. DeAngelo’s last chance should have been used up a long time ago.

For too long, teams turned a blind eye to DeAngelo’s reckless and destructive behavior because of his abilities on the ice. But it should not matter how good of a player someone is. Nobody is entitled to a position on a professional sports team if they behave in the manner DeAngelo has time and time again.

In no other profession would it be deemed acceptable for an employee to verbally or physically abuse their coworkers. Why would it be okay to do so on a professional sports team?

Nobody’s perfect, and in most cases, people should get a second chance to remedy their mistakes and grow from them. But when a person makes the same mistakes multiple times, the mistake becomes a pattern.

Unfortunately, stories like DeAngelo’s are common in the league. 

During the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Coyotes selected Mitchell Miller. Miller was convicted in 2016 for assaulting his classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers. Not only this, but Meyer-Crothers’s mother released a statement saying he never apologized to her son.

Faced with this controversy, the Coyotes renounced their rights to Miller, three weeks after selecting him, on Oct. 26.

The Coyotes were aware of Miller’s past when they drafted him. In an interview with ESPN, Xavier Gutierrez, president of the Coyotes, said the team had wanted to “provide [Miller] with an opportunity to be a leader on anti-bullying and anti-racism efforts.

Additionally, Miller was also dropped by his university’s hockey team at University of North Dakota.

The NHL should not give remorseless bullies a platform under the guise of activism.

The NHL needs to stop using on-ice talent as a free pass to bully and harm others. When they are earned, second chances are an important part of an individual’s growth. However, one should not be given this chance when he or she displays a lack of remorse for a mistake.

Countless people would do anything for a chance to play professional hockey. The NHL should not waste multiple chances on those who haven’t earned them.

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