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Ex-Sharks Employee on Surviving Sexual Harassment, Hockey Culture

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Credit: San Jose Barracuda

All the time is a great time to talk about the frustrating aspects of hockey culture. Unfortunately, we tend not to in sports media, often for fear of repercussions.

A recent Victory Press post from Jen Ramos, a San Jose Sharks digital media intern in 2013, highlighted the repercussions that they faced for speaking out against hockey culture in 2014, when they accused a “popular writer” of sexual harassment. It’s a must-read.

Their post got me thinking about what I’ve seen in my two years in the business.

While outside of the hockey environment, the world is still coming to terms with the fact that it should be okay for victims to speak out without repercussion, within the world of hockey, we are far behind. While there are plenty of people willing to listen and it feels as though people are willing to show support, when it comes down to it, keeping connections and making sure that people in the industry are not uncomfortable is still held above all else. Especially when you consider that within organizations and even in a freelance world, there is a power dynamic that is always looming.

Personal experiences should not be subject to backlash and nobody should be afraid of being effectively shunned for speaking out. Whether or not you agree with the person who shares their story or is willing to help share somebody else’s, there is a discussion to be had. With effective listening and a willingness to see past friendships or organizational loyalties, those discussions will enhance hockey culture as a whole and make it a more welcoming environment to all. Who knows, maybe it would even allow us to start learning how to begin repairing the cracks and communication breakdowns and create a new generation in hockey that can actually be for everyone.

This isn’t just about hockey players and coaches and management.

Hockey culture as it pertains to players, such as Team Canada’s 2018 World Juniors scandal, has been under the microscope, but players are not the only people to whom “hockey culture” pertains. Fans and even members of media should be held to the same standards as we are looking to hold athletes to and it should be able to be done without repercussion to those who speak out.

Ramos’s story, after all, isn’t about players, but a fellow media member who harassed them, and other media members who shunned them.

We remain in a society where those who use their voice to discuss ugly things that have occurred are instead treated as though they are the problem. While we seem to have learned to have some respect for unnamed victims or those who have very public and large-scale stories, those who are vocal from within our own circles tend to be shut down or brushed aside.

To some extent, the hockey community has improved in leaps and bounds, even in the last decade, but there is still much work to be done. Whether it’s within organizations, in online communities like hockey Twitter, or in person, there is a correct way to treat people, and specifically within the world of hockey, we seem to be failing to remember that fact. Unfortunately, it’s driving quality people away — like Jen Ramos — from the sport, and ultimately holding back the growth we all want to see for hockey as a whole.

Hockey should be for everyone, not only those who avoid rocking the boat.

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