Not in the NHL?


Written on 9/15/2010 by Jim Cerny

For the past few days there has been much talk of the boorish behavior several New York Jets players, and coaches, reportedly displayed in the presence of Mexican TV reporter Ines Sainz.

And there has also been much debate over whether Ms. Sainz' attire (see photo) was appropriate for a reporter to wear when covering a sporting event or practice.

Unfortunately we've been down this road before. The "boys will be boys" locker-room mentality. The "she asked for it" mindset. The "locker room is no place for women" stance. And the angry equal rights responses and defense in return.

Funny how these stories are so much more prevelant in sports other than hockey. Football, baseball, basketball, yes.But not hockey.

I have covered professional sports for more than 20 years, and I have been regularly in locker rooms of all four major sports, and I can not remember a single similar incident of complete disrespect directed at a female journalist ever. And keep in mind I have been in the NHL for most of my career as a play-by-play broadcaster, beat writer, and talk show host.

That doesn't mean there hasn't been something inappropriate said or done to a female reporter in a hockey locker room, only that in my extensive career, I have never ever witnessed any or heard of any. By contrast, far fewer times have I been in MLB, NFL, or NBA locker rooms, and I have witnessed offensive comments or acts in all three.

Yes, Sean Avery's inappropriate comments about his ex-girlfriend and then-Calgary Flame defenseman Dion Phaneuf shed a horrible light on the NHL and its players a couple of years ago. But his teammates, and opponents immediately reacted in a universally negative way to what Avery said. Who can forget teammates Mike Modano, Marty Turco, et al basically running Avery out of Dallas after that ugly diatribe?

In contrast, several NFL players, including Redskins rubbing back Clinton Portis and Cardinals lineman Darnell Dockett, have gone out of their way the past two days to further inflame the Jets-Sainz situation with misguided comments.

Interestingly, I have never seen Avery act disrespectful to a female reporter in the locker room, which is central to what is at issue here.

Back on track, the very first MLB game I ever covered as a reporter for WCBS Radio in New York, right out of college, was a big Mets-Pirates late-season game at Shea Stadium. Afterwards in the locker room of the losing team, a well-known star player---who had failed in the clutch in the 8th inning, the key moment of the contest---was asked by a female reporter if he believed his failure was indeed that key moment.

The player's response was swift and vicious. The reporter was called every vile name in the book as a group of male reporters and players just stood by.

The end result? The female reporter was removed from the locker room at the star player's request.

Granted, if that happened today, the player and team would be subject to an investigation and possible fines, just as is happening with the Jets. But that was my introduction to covering a professional sports locker room, and how women reporters could be treated.

Hockey players are certainly not choirboys. And when I discuss their overall respectful manner in the locker room, it is just that. I am not talking about what may go on off the ice. That's their personal business. I am only discussing what is professional.

And on the professional front, hockey players, on the whole, are the most respectful and polite athletes in regards to how they treat the media---both male and female---and their fans.

Why is that? Perhaps it is because---at least in the States---they are the least famous or least scrutinized of all pro athletes. Perhaps it is because they make, on average, less money than their counterparts in MLB, NFL, and NBA.

Or more likely that respectful mindset comes with waking up at 5:00 AM as a kid in order to be able to get ice time to play the sport you love. And lugging your own equipment. And not having your every whim catered to from pre-teen years on. Perhaps the amount of Europeans in hockey adds to a more accepting respectful atmosphere.

No matter the exact answer, my experience---as well as those of many respected sports journalists I spoke to before writing this piece---says that hockey players are the class of all professional athletes.

Follow me on Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

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