NHL

Columbus Blue Jackets: Racism In House Part 1

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It is 2022, the Florida Panthers are one of the NHL’s best teams heavy in scoring depth, and after adding multiple ex-Columbus Blue Jackets personnel, Bill Zito has utilized cap space with precision.

The not-so-funny part is what Zito sees in this player, what John Tortorella couldn’t.

Let’s discuss a dark time in the team’s history, prior to the Sweep, prior to “All-In”.

Anthony Duclair

The problem with Duclair wasn’t the player himself, it was a mismanagement of talent from top-down.

Brought into Columbus on a discount contract from the now infamous Chicago Blackhawks on July 6, 2018, with a $650,000.00 price tag, for a forward, that would develop into an All-Star in the future. But the fact that Tortorella’s comments went by unchecked from any major outlet covering the Blue Jackets, shows how certain personnel will prioritize accessibility over justice.

Jarmo Kekäläinen has been known as a smart General Manager, and he has the pedigree for it, leaving the St. Louis Blues, with a core that would end up winning the Stanley Cup.

However, it makes me question how many of his moves in the past were just unilateral. Given how much offensive power he brought in on Tortorella’s final contract year, I feel this has to be the case.

In his first 16 games as a Blue Jacket, he delivered 12 points which is under a point-per-game but, as a 22 year at the time, there was development on both ends of the ice to account for.

Racist Tropes and Power Structures

Tortorella is part of the same recycling bin of coaches riding the clout of one Stanley Cup victory.

What he said about Duclair echoed the racist tropes about black players in hockey back in the ’70s and ’80s when Don Cherry ruled the airwaves.

“I don’t think he knows how to play” and “He’s off the rails” are just two of the things Tortorella said to describe Duclair…who is in the Blue Jackets lineup in a little over an hour because Artemi Panarin is out.

Arpon Basu

This sounds all too familiar to what I’ve read about racist tropes in depicting players who play a high level of Hockey in the NHL, from P.K. Subban to Anson Carter.

When Neufeld was playing in the NHL for the Whalers and Jets in the 1980s, he represented something deeper to Townshend: He was a rebuttal to the schoolyard kids in Toronto who believed that Blacks couldn’t play hockey, who said their ankles were too weak.

Matt Porter

“The settler-native relationship is a mass relationship. The settler pits brute force against the weight of numbers. He is an exhibitionist. His preoccupation with security makes him remind the native that there he alone is the master.”

― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

This relationship between coach and player has reproduced this scenario even now(colonialist power structure and the colonized), despite what little progress the NHL has made over the years, coaches are given multiple chances, despite obvious bias towards veterans who are more suited for the office, coaching, or even a 4th line leadership role.

While most hockey media was able to coalesce around Tortorella’s short-sightedness and his disrespectful behavior, I haven’t been able to find the word “racist” used in the past to describe the racist incident.

Prior to the 2019 sweep, the team went all in and traded Duclair and 2020, 2021 2nd round picks to the Ottawa Senators for Ryan Dzingel and a seventh-round pick in 2019.

Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers

Duclair immediately went on a revenge tour in the NHL, scoring 21 goals and 30 points in 38 games, after signing for another discount contract at $1.65 Million, for one year on June 17, 2019, with the Senators.

During his All-Star year, he would become an inaugural executive for the Hockey Diversity Alliance, in June 2020.

Pierre Dorion would fumble the All-Star forward by not offering him a qualifying offer, and again the underrated Duclair would sign with Zito and the Florida Panthers on December 17th, 2020 for another $1.7 Million.

After proving himself under now-disgraced coach Joel Quenneville‘s system with an impressive 32 points and a playoff run in the bubble in 2020-2021, I am convinced he has finally found a General Manager that will let him develop and a system with plenty of depth for scoring chances. This however doesn’t account for the racism he has faced in Columbus.

They say silence is consent and it was deafening here.

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