When I was 21 years old, I was a third-year university student in a tough program. I was pretty good, because I was on scholarship and poor kids didn't risk blowing the cash if they blew off the classes. I was also a community volunteer. I helped raise a lot of money in support of patients suffering with one of the more ghastly neurological diseases. I babysat small children. I was learning to cook. I wrote poetry and spent time at important museums. I was also an idiot.
I took rides on motorcycles from questionable men. I drank too much too often and stayed out much too late on many nights, some of them school nights. I hitchhiked. I helped a naked friend climb up onto a revered war memorial for a photo op. I was an idiot. And probably, so were you.
Alex Galchenyuk is 21. He's done some heartwarming community work in association with his team. He's developing his skills and maintaining an awesome level of physical health in order to maximize them. He's adapted to a big city lifestyle in which more is expected of him than was expected of you or I when we were his age. And, he's likely an idiot, just like we were.
Today, the media is eating him alive because of a phone call that brought police to his house and ended with a girlfriend accused of assaulting him. We don't know the details of what happened, but we can suspect it's the kind of thing that Galchenyuk, 10 years from now, would never repeat. Just as we would never do some of the things we did at 21, because we were idiots back then. Unfortunately for Galchenyuk, he's got millions of witnesses to his idiocy, led by the tribe of salacious gossip hunters who surround his place of employment and are too happy to report his mistakes.
The reason this is happening isn't solely because of Galchenyuk's situation. It's because the Montreal Canadiens are diving down the standings like Alexander Despatie, albeit with fewer style points. Couple that with four days off, and you have a hungry news goat to feed; one that's a victim of its own hype. If Galchenyuk had this happen to him in October during the nine-win start to the season, it would have received considerably less attention.
The Canadiens have spent several years passing the torch and building themselves up as a community organization as much as they are a hockey team. To some degree, that's good corporate citizenship. A cynic might also say that good work helps mask some of the on-ice futility the team has experienced for a couple of decades. The problem with that public image is, as long as it's a cover for mediocrity, there can be no missteps. The image of pride, history and tradition can only be maintained if everyone walks the walk. If there's a mistake, the whole picture skews. Then, suddenly, the "classy" Canadiens become the ordinary guys, just like every other team.
The time is coming for the Habs, regardless. They haven't won a Stanley Cup in 22 years. They haven't even been to the Finals. The legendary men who created the Canadiens legend are dying. They've been replaced by guys who swear in press conferences, fight in practice and spend time with designers creating velvet suits.
So perhaps its time to cut a 21-year-old a break. I was an idiot at that age, and thank goodness nobody expected me to be a role model or some kind of hero. So were you.