by Chris 'Blue Shorts' Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – As the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal continues to develop in Miami, the court of public opinion is beginning to call for a line to be drawn in professional sports, in what constitutes acceptable hazing, and what crosses the line.

In the case of the Miami Dolphins, Incognito crossed that line when he allegedly forced Martin to pay for a $15k trip to Vegas – a trip Martin wasn’t even invited to attend – and of course, with the countless other accusations, which include sending threats on Martin and his family, via text message.

But it’s no secret, for instance, that rookies have long had to pay for the meals of veterans, as part of a rite of passage in pro sports, and this is typically considered acceptable practice.

As is the case with hazing in any environment, regardless of the degree to which it’s carried out, the culture warrants ‘well we had to do it, so do you’ — promoting a self-sustaining cycle that’s fed from the top, down.

Joel Ward, a veteran on the Washington Capitals, offered a little insight into this culture, in an interview with the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan on Tuesday.

“You gotta kind of know a little bit of part of what goes on,” Ward said. “I wouldn’t say it’s hazing that kind of goes on.”

While Ward wasn’t completely caught up on the details of the scandal in Miami, he did talk about what’s expected of the Caps’ rookies, and gave an anecdote about a hefty bill he had to pick up in his rookie season, although he didn’t specify if it was with the Minnesota Wild or the Nashville Predators.

“What’s been your experience?” Ward was asked. “You’ve been a professional in hockey. Do you guys leave a tab to the rookies?”

“You make Tom Wilson pick up a $10,000 bar tab?” Cakes zinged.

“Nah, we at least give him a heads up first,” Ward laughed. “But, no, you just kind of, you know, you got some of your duties you gotta do, obviously is, we have like a rookie dinner, you kind of do that once or twice, you know, you gotta pick up pucks after practice. That’s just kind of unwritten rules stuff. Every year though we do have a rookie dinner, where the rookies do you know, take care of the bill.”

“But it’s not just one guy; at least they get to spread it out a little bit?” EB speculated.

“Yea, they get to spread it out to help each other out,” Ward said. “So it’s kind of a, you always have a close-knit group of the guys that you come in with because of that.”

“My year I had to pay, I think my rookie year I had to pay like eight grand,” he explained. “Dinner was divided between I think four of us at the time.”

“So in other words, the whole team will go out, and all the rooks have to pay for it?” EB requested clarification.

“Yea,” Ward said.

“Everyone goes through it,” Ward went on to say, specifying that it becomes a problem if the teammate refuses to pay for the bill.

“That’s a problem,” he said. “That’s where it becomes … it could get out of hand if you refuse it. You just chalk it up as part of the gig.”

Ward also addressed the fight between Ray Emery and unwilling participant Braden Holtby, acknowledging it a difficult situation to deal with, given the rules that are currently in place, but he would have liked to see the refs do a little more to prevent it.

“It is tough because you obviously, guys know that you can get suspended for being the third guy in, you know that’s quite a few games right there,” Ward said. “Obviously, coming off the bench, there was an incident earlier on in the year, in Toronto, with a guy, he got automatically ten games for coming off the bench. Basically, you know obviously, you hope for the ref to kind of control it as they can, and kind of try to manage what’s going on on the ice as best they can, but it was definitely a tough incident to watch for sure.”

“It was tough,” he went on. “I’m not too sure of what on the ice what the guys were doing, or what the ref, I just thought maybe the ref could have done a little bit better job maybe of just controlling the scenario, so, you know keeping their guy off our goalie, especially when we were up by so many. What was the point?”

Just as a reminder, with the rules currently in place in the NHL, Emery could not have been suspended for forcing Holtby to fight against his will, but Holtby’s teammates could have been suspended for trying to stop it, because of rule no. 46.16, entitled: Third Man In.


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