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Leipsic Situation Raises Much Bigger Questions

After Brendan Leipsic’s group chat messages were leaked, he’s been a main talking point among the hockey community. On Friday, the Washington Capitals put an end to any doubt, terminating what was left of Leipsic’s deal with the team. However, even with what seems to be the end of Leipsic’s fall from grace, more questions are raised by the Leipsic situation.

The Future of Brendan Leipsic

Well, as far as the NHL and the Washington Capitals are concerned, there is no future. Leipsic is likely done in Washington.

On top of his disgusting comments, Leipsic straight up went out of his way to make comments on his teammates. From insulting his linemates, calling them “losers”, to making comments about teammate Tom Wilson’s relationship behind his back. It’s hard to imagine he would’ve been welcomed in the locker room.

The problem is, as harsh as it may sound, Leipsic just isn’t good enough for teams to overlook the situation and go out of their way to sign him. He’s a 4th line energy player at best and will turn 26 before the next season starts. The only huge reason that he would’ve returned to Washington was that he’s a cost-controlled RFA.

However, I think his game will end up thriving in Europe, namely the KHL. Leipsic is a skilled player, he just didn’t put it together at the NHL level, but he performed well at the AHL and WHL levels. If he does have a future in hockey, it’ll likely be in the KHL.

What Happens If Someone Better Did the Same?

One of the biggest questions surrounding the whole debacle was, what happens if a better player was exposed for doing the same?

For the Washington Capitals, the decision was easy. Releasing Leipsic wasn’t really a blow to the Caps. By the time the season wrapped up, Leipsic wasn’t even an NHL regular for them. The only reason Leipsic would’ve been re-signed was his RFA expiry, along with his cost-effective minimum-salary deal.

So, the Capitals and the league almost lucked out. It still begs the question, what if it were an NHL star? Or, at the very least, a full-time NHL player. What happens when the team loses more by just letting the player go? A bidding war won’t start for Leipsic, at least in the NHL, but that could change when a better player is released.

Ultimately, any possibility of Leipsic re-joining the Capitals was eliminated by his texts about his teammates. The decision by the Capitals wasn’t one made to combat misogyny and sexism, it was one made because the Capitals couldn’t bring back Leipsic without causing some sort of divide.

What happens when a better player does what Leipsic did, but doesn’t make any comments about his linemates or teammates?

What I’m trying to ask is, what do the team and league do to take action against discriminatory comments when there isn’t an “easy way out”? I’ve seen some comparisons to the Auston Matthews situation, but the Leipsic situation was sustained behaviour and very directly discriminatory. There just hasn’t been a precedent for punishment for it in the league.

The Others Involved

Of the other known people involved, only Jack Rodewald, Jeremey Leipsic, Jackson Keane, and Travis Brown still play competitive hockey.

Jack Rodewald enters this offseason having struggled, the usually-solid AHLer only totaling 16 points in 49 points between the Belleville Senators and Springfield Thunderbirds. Now, things aren’t looking up for him at all. Although Rodewald didn’t have as much of a role in the group chat, he still made comments, and it’s clear that the Panthers organization aren’t pleased:

After a season of struggle and with the Panthers looking unkeen on re-signing him, it’s hard to see what’s next for Rodewald. It’s possible that the Panthers weren’t going to re-sign him anyway, and that he’d have to settle for an AHL deal. That’s something that we’ll just have to see play out.

Jeremey Leipsic, Brendan’s younger brother, was actually released before the older Leipsic. Jeremey was a member of the University of Manitoba Bisons, where he was a key player. He tied for third on the team in points and finished 4th in goals and assists. What’s next for the 23-year-old is unknown. Does he finish his education at UoM, or does he transfer elsewhere to continue his career?

Jackson Keane wasn’t very present in most of the screenshots posted, but he wasn’t innocent either. The son of former Habs captain Mike Keane is known for his offensive touch and similarities to his dad’s game but has only put up 11 points in 47 games with the University of North Dakota of the NCAA. The program announced that they’d deal with the matter internally, signalling that Keane will likely play out the rest of his NCAA career with the Fighting Hawks.

Travis Brown played the last season in Denmark, he wasn’t visibly involved in the conversations and the incident likely won’t affect where he plays next season.

Another member of the chat that still plays is Tyler Morwick, but he played in the Tiger Hills Hockey League, a Manitoba senior league, so I don’t think there’s much to write about there.

It’ll be interesting to see how the respective players and organizations handle the situation.

Hockey Culture

One common defense I’ve seen for Leipsic’s actions was that almost all hockey players talk like that. That’s not good!

Brock is right you know! Hockey has a major problem. It doesn’t just exist in the sport, but it’s a huge issue. The culture around hockey has been under scrutiny for years. Hockey is a sport almost known for its normalized racism and sexism, the Leipsic incident is just one example. If you’re using the defense of: “Well if we tested every hockey player, most of the league would be wiped out.”, then that’s terrible!

The Leipsic situation is another in a long list of issues the sport has seen about its culture. From Akim Aliu’s experiences with racism, to other incidents surrounding coach abuse, to Daniel Carcillo’s experiences with hazing, and so much more. How much more has to come out before something drastic happens?

How does the NHL, and the sport as a whole, go about resolving it? I think, in the end, that may be the biggest question of all.

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Spencer White
Spencer White is a Managing Editor of Hockey and MMA at Overtime Heroics. He writes about hockey, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies, Newfoundland Growlers, and the Toronto Six. Spencer is also the Director of Gaming at Overtime Heroics. You can find him on Twitter at @klapanen, @SpencerWhiteOTH, and @LeafsMoves.
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