Teemu Selanne is a hockey player.
As the story of what he said to a Toronto Sun writer ambles along, remember that. He’s a hockey player.
Earlier this month, Teemu Selanne’s Colorado Avalanche teammate, Steve Moore, was mugged by Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks during a game. The mugging involved a hit from behind, after which Bertuzzi smashed Moore’s head into the ice so hard that Moore suffered a concussion and cracked vertebrae in his neck. Moore’s out of the hospital now, but he may or may not ever resume his career.
Todd Bertuzzi was suspended for the remainder of the season, though not banned from hockey.
Teemu Selanne, who witnessed the mugging, has reported that he and several other Colorado players said to each other at the time, “let’s just stop the game. This is not a safe place.”
“I know the coaches tell us to play hard, finish your check, be tough, but there’s a line between playing hard and stupidity,” Selanne said. He also told the reporter that he thought “guys have to be responsible for what they’re doing, and if they’re not thinking clearly because they’re taking ephedrine or whatever, we’ve got to face the problem.”
Teemu Selanne is right. Guys ought to be responsible for what they’re doing. But of course lots of guys aren’t, and lots of pro and major college athletes have learned that they aren’t expected to be. They can behave like self-indulgent thugs, endanger themselves and others on and off the field or ice, commit any number of misdemeanors and felonies, and be welcomed back to the team, as long as they can still perform.
We take these conditions for granted. Nobody is surprised when coaches, general managers, and commissioners excuse or overlook behavior which would land anybody not employed by a pro or major college team in court. By suggesting that his colleagues in the National Hockey League ought to expected to think clearly, respect their opponents, and assume responsibility for their behavior, Teemu Salanne has posited a rarely endorsed and welcome standard not only for pro hockey players and other athletes, but for any number of folks whose escapades are recorded in parts of the paper other than the sports section.
In a landscape where athletes and their alleged betters often make the news for saying or doing preposterously stupid things and acting in flamboyantly destructive ways, a quietly sane perspective begs to be acknowledged.