Senators’ leaked video debacle a wake-up call for fellow NHLers

The Senators coach is not happy about the hurtful comments made toward Marty Raymond and takes them 'personal' while Mark Borowiecki and Mark Stone say things have been dealt with internally and they want to move forward.

TORONTO — It wasn’t just an unvarnished view of Ottawa’s struggles on the penalty kill that spilled out into public when video of seven Senators chatting in an Uber went viral on Monday night.

For players around the NHL, it was a reminder that embarrassment can arrive from seemingly safe situations. That Big Brother is always watching.

“I would never expect a cab ride conversation to be made public, but that’s the world we live in right now,” said Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves. “Everybody’s a snitch.”

In the close-knit world of professional hockey, the instinct was to draw the curtain and look away. Every player and coach in the league immediately understood the context of the discussion between Matt Duchene, Thomas Chabot, Chris Wideman, Dylan DeMelo, Alex Formenton, Chris Tierney and Colin White.

Those players had no idea their conversation was being recorded during an Uber ride in Phoenix on Oct. 29 — a conversation in which they made pointed comments about assistant coach Martin Raymond and the team’s dreadful penalty kill.

It’s the sort of talk being had in private by frustrated members of every team. It’s just not supposed to see the light of day.

“That was tough to watch. I think most of the guys on the team, if they did watch, they didn’t watch the whole thing because it was tough to watch,” said Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty. “It shouldn’t happen. The culture of hockey, sometimes [we’re] unable to describe it to the outside: There’s a lot of joking, there’s a lot of chirping back and forth.

“They say ‘hockey talk’ and whatnot, but I just didn’t like that that’s out there. I’m sure they didn’t as well. It’s an unfortunate situation.”

The aftershocks of this particular video were even more pronounced given that the Senators are only months removed from general manager Pierre Dorion saying he had to trade Mike Hoffman because the dressing room was “broken.” He also dealt captain Erik Karlsson to San Jose after Karlsson’s wife, Melinda, filed an application for an order of protection against Hoffman’s fiancée, Monika Caryk, alleging a campaign of harassment.

While quite different in nature, this incident was easily tied to that wider organizational dysfunction.

It’s also worth noting that the players were recorded in Phoenix — a long way from the passionate hockey market where they live and play. They probably weren’t expecting to be recognized during that particular trip.

For others, there was a lesson to be found in that.

“There’s always eyes on you,” said Leafs defenceman Travis Dermott. “If you’re going to talk like that, probably you should make sure you’re pretty safe about it. But, I mean, tough bounce for them. They’re going to have to deal with that, but it could happen to anyone, really.”

“We’re all totally aware that any time someone says to you, ‘This is off the record’ … nothing is off the record in your life,” added Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “So let’s get that straight. The second thing is everywhere you go there’s someone taking your picture or [their] camera is on, and you know that as well. You can call it an invasion of privacy, sure. But is that not what we live with every single day?”

It could pose challenges for a conservative sport trying to shed its safe skin. We have seen young players start to show more personality in the last year or two — be it with their fashion choices or goal celebrations or the way they express themselves on social media.

However, given the ‘gotcha’ feeling that came with the Ottawa incident, can we really blame those same players if they chose to stay in their hotel rooms and play Fortnite rather than hitting the town with teammates during road trips?

Of course not.

The actual content of the conversation in the Phoenix Uber came as no surprise to those around the hockey world, if only because it sounded so familiar.

“They talk about us all the time,,” said Vegas coach Gerard Gallant, with a chuckle. “All the players talk about coaches all the time, believe me, and vice versa. We talk about them all the time, too.”

“It’s a special culture in here, the way we talk to each other,” said Pacioretty. “People from the outside definitely wouldn’t understand it, but it’s also a brotherhood, it’s a family. How many times have you said something about your family, and you love your family, you know what I mean?

“I don’t want to bring more gasoline to the fire. I just feel uncomfortable even talking about it because I don’t think it should be something that’s out there.”

He remembered an incident from earlier in his career where the Montreal Canadiens had assigned him to Hamilton and he made an offhand remark to a reporter about preferring to play first-line minutes in the AHL rather than being a third-liner in the NHL.

That blew up big. Pacioretty wanted to hide under a rock.

But then a funny thing happened — something the Senators organization should be mindful of in the aftermath of this story.

“This will be something that’ll be forgotten,” said Pacioretty. “I mean, we’re talking about it today, but it’ll be forgotten once the next story’s out. And if you’re a player in that situation, that’s kind of what you have to focus on, and not let it get to you.

“Because I have had things in the media affect me. I wish I hadn’t, but at the end of the day they just seem to go away with time.”

Hey, look… the Chicago Blackhawks just fired Joel Quenneville.

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