Am I the only one to have some really mixed feelings about the whole Kostitsyn "scandal?" When I first heard it, I was just relieved because the Montreal media had been hinting at something much more shocking and damaging to players and the team. So, when it turned out the boys had been friends with a crook but weren't about to be charged with anything themselves, well, that seemed a lot better than I'd been expecting.
I mean, it's still not good, and Bob Gainey was right to say team management is "very concerned" about it. But this is where I find myself vascillating about what side to take in this. On the one hand, I feel sorry for the Kostitsyns. They're very young, they're in a new country and they don't speak the language very well. They're also rich and playing hockey for a very glamourous, popular team in a very cosmopolitan city. They should have "Prey" written across their foreheads. They're the perfect candidates to be used by a slimy, unscrupulous guy who wants the prestige of having an "in" to the team and its players. It's here I think the team falls down on the job when it comes to looking after their young players. We saw it with Carey Price last year, in his poor conditioning and questionable health decisions. Young guys living alone in expensive apartments, often on their own for the first time in their lives, are prone to eating junk food, partying too much, and...in the case of young guys from other countries who are trying to adapt to a culture as well as their own budding independence...falling prey to unpleasant characters, both male and female.
Bob Gainey says the team gives young draftees a week-long primer on being a pro hockey player. The NHL also sends a "security" expert to talk to all the players about not trusting the wrong people and being careful about their public behaviour. I think it's not enough. When these guys start out, they're no older than university kids. I don't know about you, but I was an idiot in university. I did some dumb things I'd be really embarrassed to see photographed and posted on the internet. And once they're up there, they never go away. That's a big price to pay for acting like a dumb kid, but it's the reality that these kids are rich and famous and their dumb acts are news. I think a week-long gettin'-to-know-ya camp doesn't quite drive that home, and the team needs to have its own people the players can turn to for help...off-ice coordinators or something like that. Just trustworthy people who know the city and can help guys find apartments, buy cars, arrange insurance and accountants and translators and homemade meal delivery service. People who are plugged in and can advise a player of the consequences of his dumbass behaviour or ill-advised friendships...or just talk to them about the things they're feeling or worried about. Sometimes, when parents are far away and coaches and GMs unapproachable on some issues, a young person just needs someone to talk to. It makes me hope the team has learned from the latest "scandal" and when young men like Yannick Weber, Ben Maxwell, PK Subban and Max Pacioretty challenge for full-time spots on the team in the next couple of years, there'll be better support for them. You can't build a team around youth without preparing for the fallout. That's one part of my take on the Kostitsyn story.
On the other hand, although young people make dumb mistakes, they also...by twenty or so...have certain character values entrenched in their basic makeup that define who they are. While a guy might get drunk and barf under the table after dancing on it, the conscious choices he makes are guided by his core values. So, if a young man has a wife and a baby at home, it doesn't reflect well on him to have his dubious friends hook him up with women on the side. It's easy to forgive the poorly-considered crimes of youth, but flaws in character are tougher to overcome. In the end, while the team should do more to help prevent players straying for the lack of basic guidance, it can't reach into a man's private life and govern his decisions.
When I look at the story today, I can see both sides of it, and I still don't know what to think. I guess I hope whoever needs to learn lessons from this has learned them. I hope nobody is hurt long-term by it. And most of all, I hope it somehow becomes a point of unity for this troubled team and they manage to turn themselves around.