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Here’s How I Defend Voting Auston Matthews for Lady Byng…



Credit: Azadeh Kashani (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Every Sunday at Peng to the Point, we talk about the world away from the San Jose Sharks.

Here’s how I defend voting Auston Matthews for Lady Byng…

I don’t. I messed up.

I forgot not only one, but two incidents this past season that should’ve immediately disqualified Matthews from an award that’s supposed to honor the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

That’s simply, inexcusably, a bad vote on my part. As a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, I’m supposed to represent the best and most informed in my field. I failed on both counts.

“Gentlemanly” is not trying to break into a black female security guard’s car at 2 AM with two other male friends. “Gentlemanly” is not walking away, then mooning her, when she gets out of her car to confront you and your friends.

The victim, Fayola Dozithee, told the police on May 28, 2019, “You do not approach a female at 2:00 in the morning thinking it’s funny to see how she would react. There’s three of you, and one of me. You could have done anything to me and I’m at a disadvantage because of that.”

You might say that’s an off-the-ice incident, irrelevant to a debatably on-the-ice honor. “Debatably” because the award’s description doesn’t necessarily distinguish between off-the-ice and on-the-ice conduct. For the sake of argument, however, let’s say that strictly on-the-ice conduct is how we should judge the Lady Byng.

“Sportsmanship” is not a 22-year-old superstar showing up a 27-year-old who’s never played in the NHL in a pre-season game. “Sportsmanship” isn’t demonstratively leaning over to check a career minor leaguer’s name plate, an act of underscoring his lack of value.

Mark Borowiecki spoke on his teammate Scott Sabourin’s behalf: “I thought it was a little bit disrespectful, to be honest. We’re not all blessed with Auston Matthews’s talent, unfortunately, but I truly wish I was. Some of us have to do it the hard way.

“I’m not sure Auston appreciates what it’s like being a fighter down [in the minors], it’s a role he never had to play. It’s really tough when you know you’re going to fight double digits every year and ride the bus around and get paid $70,000.”

But enough about Matthews’s mistakes. This is about my mistake.

How did I forget?

I looked at Matthews’s 47 goals, eight PIMs, all minor penalties, zero abuse of official infractions, no fines or suspensions, and called it a day on my vote.

I didn’t think about the incidents with Dozithee and Sabourin at all. I didn’t give it a second thought until the Lady Byng finalists were announced in mid-July.

I was sure I hadn’t voted for Matthews — I was mortified when I discovered I had.

So I’m sorry for minimizing the severity of Matthews’s actions, especially his harassment of Dozithee.

I’m sorry for disrespecting women hockey fans by nominating a blatantly ungentlemanly player for a gentlemanly conduct award.

I’m sorry for the message that my vote and the PHWA vote has sent: That it’s okay for a powerful male figure to harass a woman. It’s not okay.

I need to be better — PHWA members who voted for Matthews need to be better.

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