After much thought over these past few months about continuing as a hockey writer, I’ve decided that it is time that I do what is best for me and step away from the game. I have a lot of reasons why I’ve come to this decision.
When I retired in 2012, I was quite content with my retirement from hockey writing. I had found a new world for myself that I enjoyed immensely. During the lockout, I believed I had made the right decision, especially after seeing the players take to Twitter and talk so ill of a league I loved. I lost a lot of respect for the game when I saw them belittle the league so publicly.
I’m not the only one who was turned off by hockey by this complete disrespect for the NHL shown to the world by its players. I have close media friends across the league that did not return after the players did that. What the players did left a bitter taste in our mouths. My friends, too, had lost respect for the game. That is something that has stayed in the back of my mind these past few years.
When my editor asked me to come back in 2013, I did it out of respect for him. He gave me the tools and the chance to make my dream come true back in 2007. I have a lot of loyalty towards Kevin Greenstein, because of how he stuck up for me and gave me so many amazing opportunities over the course of my career. But the truth is, I have been miserable these past few years.
There is something I never discuss except with my closest friends. It’s the ugly stuff that happens to women that cover hockey.
When I came back to cover hockey, Kevin managed to find some help for me, because I wasn’t able to cover hockey as much as I used to. A young woman was helping me out that season. She ended up not returning after that season. It was only a few weeks ago that I learned why she didn’t return. The sad thing is, not only had this stuff happened to her, but it had also happened to me and other women that covered the Devils or interned for them.
She was talking about the misogynistic crap that happens in that press box. She was not only harassed, but another member of the press tried to take advantage of her. When I read her words, I realized that this was why I truly hate hockey deep down inside. It’s because of these assholes in the press box that say derogatory things towards women. Everything from the degrading sexist remarks, to the fat shaming, to the ‘you know nothing about hockey,’ to treating us like they can take advantage of us by touching us in places they shouldn’t.
Do you know how many times I’ve heard stories of how this one member of the press had brought a Devils intern to tears because of the crap he would say to her? She tried to avoid him, but he would seek her out. He did the same thing to me, too.
When I saw that I’d have to sit next to him at a Rangers game, I would either move (in the old press box) and sit next to someone from the NHL office or I’d get to the game early (in the new press box) and move his name tag or I’d move mine away. Luckily, I think the Rangers caught on and made sure I didn’t have to sit next to him ever again.
I tried to be nice to him for years, and because he’s a bitter old man who doesn’t think women should be covering sports, he would always think of the most venomous thing to say and he’d say it.
Both he and another old timer have tried to get me kicked out of the press box over the last eight years. A lot of times they would lie and twist the events around to make their story seem legit because it would qualify as getting me kicked out.
You have to ask why these men would go out of their way to get another member of the press kicked out, especially when there are only one or two women in the press box. And why go after the woman and not another guy?
When I spoke to my editor about this a few weeks ago, we had decided that perhaps a switch to the New York Rangers would be better. After all, that was the team I wanted to cover all along.
But the problem is that these guys also cover the Rangers, too. When I told my editor the name of the problem individual, he backed off because he knew exactly who I was talking about because he has a history of doing this stuff to people. He is that kind of horrible human being…someone who hates their life so much that they are so filled with negativity that they will try to bring everybody around them down.
Even though I have been given the opportunity to cover the team I’ve always wanted to cover, I decided to decline the new position, because I started to see something trending over these past few weeks. More and more women that are involved in hockey somehow talking about how disgusted they are by the game and that they want to leave it forever. They are all citing the same thing I am. THE MISOGYNY. THE HARASSMENT. THE ABUSE. THE NO RESPECT FOR WOMEN.
What ultimately made me make the decision to leave hockey permanently wasn’t what happened to me. It was hearing that the other young lady that was helping me out went through the same crap as me and that was why she decided not to come back to help me cover this season.
I was angry for her. I felt like she was my responsibility and I unknowingly fed her to the wolves, thinking that it would not happen to her. Oh, how foolish I was to think it only happened to me and it would not happen to her.
You have to ask yourself just how much more crap you can take just to represent women in hockey media just for the sake of setting the example and saying FUCK YOU to the naysayers. How much longer can you bite your lip and remain quiet about the treatment you are receiving from these sexist jerks?
Please note that I’m not talking about the Devils or the NHL here. It is not their fault this stuff has happened. The team and the league have been absolutely wonderful over the years. The individuals I’m talking about are in the press box as credentialed members of the media.
The women I’ve met over the years that covered the Devils (especially the ones that did not return) had the same complaints. They were belittled and touched inappropriately by different members of the press.
Why does it continue?
Because we are told to keep our heads down and do the work…pretend like it did not even happen, even though we are screaming inside with anger. Women actually live in fear that if we complain, we will be the ones tossed out, not the person that is belittling us or touching us inappropriately. If word gets around that we reported it, then a certain stigma is placed upon us. We also believe that we are alone in this and that no one else is going through this.
The truth is that what women in sports media want to do is do the work and not be bothered with the sexism and harassment. We want to be on an equal page with the rest of the men in that press box. But when they say and do stuff to us directly, it shows that these men, by no means, consider us their equal. They will do and say things that are highly inappropriate in order to demean us, because to them, women should not be in the locker room.
Keep in mind, not all men are like this. There are just a few old seeds that are entwined in their “Mad Men” thinking and ways of life that do this.
So it’s bound to happen that some player will get a crush on a female reporter and then make the whole situation awkward for everyone when she either doesn’t return the same affection or she loves her job too much to jeopardize it. There are women that have been tossed out of the locker room because the player felt ‘awkward’ with her being there (after she rejected him). Yet, we don’t talk about it.
There are some players that can’t understand why their affection is not wanted, so they start stalking the reporter.
Then there are those players that are so juvenile that they don’t know how to act when they like someone so they end up getting her to completely hate him by doing a lot of stupid and demeaning actions. Then when their love and affection is not returned, they try to ruin the woman by embarrassing her in the locker room in front of other players and her peers, showing that he has absolutely no respect for her, and in some cases, talks about her while she’s standing right there.
That first part is a story the media share among themselves, because it did happen to someone.
The second and third part have both happened to me. It’s that last part that adds to why I’m walking away from hockey. In all of the years I’ve covered hockey, I have never come across a player that was so disrespectful. It was like he was purposely going out of his way to sabotage me and my work. For what purpose?
When I’ve spoken to a few of my media friends about what happened, their only response was, “That is so weird. Did you write something that made him mad?” Usually, if you write something that a player doesn’t like, they won’t follow you on Twitter, but this one does. So that added to the…”Why is he acting that way?” It confused everyone, but they all agreed that what he was doing was not right. The stuff he was doing was what you do to someone you absolutely hate. But why follow someone you hate on Twitter?
Personally, what added to my total dislike of this person is that he started doing this after my surgery when I lost a lot of my memories. I couldn’t remember a lot of things, including him. Yet, he went out of his way to create a lot of bad memories during this time. I did my best to stay away from him when I was in the locker room. Yet, he would start yelling at me from across the room, would interrupt my interviews telling the player to stop talking to me (or find some constructive way to interrupt). People started noticing. One player asked me, “Why is he like that with you?” Good question.
Simply put, if he was going out of his way to make sure I would hate him beyond measure, he succeeded during the first month. No need to continue it for the next year and a half.
Adding to that hate is my impression of hockey post-op. When you are an ambassador for the sport and you are going out of your way to make sure someone hates you, you are also helping them to hate every single thing about you, including the game you play.
Changes happen. It’s a part of life.
When I first started off as a hockey writer, I was combining my two loves: Writing and Hockey. I was able to travel the world, writing about the people I met, and telling their stories. Becoming a regular, published writer was my way of not only gaining the skills I would need, but to make sure that when it was time to sell the book, I would not be some nobody that people had never heard of. I would have the experience that I was an established writer.
Last year, I felt like a change was happening in my life, so I started meeting a lot of new and interesting people. From fashion designers to film makers, to actors, to authors, to book publishers, all of these incredible people were being veered into my path and I had no clue why. I knew I would figure it out as I went further along my path.
When I interviewed Kim Thuy, the Canadian award winning author of “Ru,” she told me that I should be the one writing books, not her. That says a lot since I believe her works are incredible and beautifully done.
At the beginning of March, I decided that it was time to change. I wanted to change my entire life. I was tired of feeling like I was in complete limbo post-op. I wanted to become the person I felt like I needed to be. The odd thing is that the universe agreed.
One door closed (NJ Devils) and I was getting ready to switch over to the Rangers, something we wouldn’t announce until September. But Kevin advised me to give it six weeks before making a decision. What happened between March 1 and today…I received a promotion, which requires more work, including the weekends. Many women started coming forward about leaving the game of hockey. I went back to the Meditation Center and ultimately found the answers I was looking for.
There was something I learned last week that really stuck with me. It was a lesson about LETTING GO.
The Sister at the Center told a story of a bird that was holding on tightly to a branch it was sitting on. The bird wanted a change. It wanted to fly away, but couldn’t. It felt like it couldn’t let go of the branch. He was stuck.
Then one day, someone was walking by, hearing the bird’s lament. The bird cried that it was stuck to the branch. The person scoffed at the bird and said, “Let go of the branch!”
The bird let go and was able to fly away.
Moral of the story, sometimes we feel like we are stuck in the story of where we are in this very moment. We fear leaving behind the person that we are because it becomes a part of our identity. We don’t know who to be or who we are without that branch. Sometimes all it takes to leave a situation you don’t want to be in anymore is to just let go of the branch…to take a chance and see what will come.
In other words, the universe is telling me to let go of hockey writing, because I hate it. I’ve hated it for three years now. I’ve hated the game since the players took to Twitter and belittled the league that gave them the opportunity to live their dream. I’ve hated having to listen to some misogynistic pig say horrible things to my face at every single game. I’ve hated hockey since my all-time favorite hockey player put the final nail into the coffin for me and threw the coffin into the grave himself.
Simply put, I fucking hate hockey.
That story of the bird said a lot of things to me. Sometimes when you’ve built up a career as a certain individual with a certain job, you don’t know who to be after you leave it. You have that fear of what you will lose…your own identity.
But I’m reminded why I got into hockey writing to begin with…it was to legitimize myself as a writer. When I met with publishers last year, I realized that I have a whole world open to me now to become the writer I’ve been dreaming of being since I first learned how to write my first sentence. Those people I met last year was a foreshadowing of the people I’ll be working with from here on out. I’ve attracted into my universe the people I need on this next journey in my life. I prefer to be with them, rather than continuing to tell other people’s stories. It’s time to start writing my own story.
I had a dream right before Robin Williams died. In the dream, this man said to me, “It is not my story to tell. It is your story to write.” When I woke up, I wrote those words down. I have been thinking of those words ever since the dream. It’s the universe saying it is time for me to write my own story and stop writing other people’s stories. It’s time for me to let go of hockey.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was finding out what happened to the young reporter under my watch. It just broke my heart that it happened to her. I don’t know why I thought she would be safe. Out of all the places in Newark, New Jersey to become a victim…it was that press box that made her into a victim, not the criminals outside of the arena. The arena was where she should have been the safest. It was the only place in Newark, New Jersey where she was not safe.
Even though I talk a lot about the negatives that happened that contribute to why I’m leaving, there are a lot of positives happening in my life. The negatives are a way of saying “let go.” The positives are saying that this is my new path. Hockey writing served its purpose. It was only supposed to be used as a stepping stone in my writing career. Now, it’s time to follow the new path that is opening up before me.
For those wanting to say that all men in the press box are to blame, they’re not. Some of them don’t even know this stuff is happening. Others, don’t know what to do or say when it happens. They are just as scared to speak up about it as the women are. Some believe it was just a rare incident and will go away with time. If you ask most of these guys, they don’t agree with what’s happening.
Less and less women are covering the game of hockey. The reason why…look no further than what is happening in the press box.
If you ask what I would suggest to change…seriously, it is not the NHL’s fault or the team’s fault. They are at fault for certain things like what the players do and certain messages they send out, but when it comes to why women don’t want to cover hockey anymore (or are just sickened by the game – and there are many things happening), look at how they allow these misogynistic assholes into their press box. It is up to the media outlet to better screen their employees/writers/photographers to do away with these types of attitudes. Perhaps teams should start alerting media outlets that they take a no tolerance response towards misogyny. After all, a woman is there to report for her media outlet and do the work. When they are subjected to harassment while in the workplace, this causes a major problem. Going into next season, the NHL and teams should take a better stance on how to correct this problem in the press box.
Until that is done, I do not recommend any woman try to cover the NHL. You may think you’re tough and can handle the misogyny, but when they start grabbing you and touching you inappropriately, how long will you mentally be able to last? You’re going to be made into a victim at every single game. How long will you last?
I’ve met a lot of great people and made a lot of friends along the way that I plan to stay in touch with. It’s just time for me to let go and fly off to a new beginning.
Will I ever attend a hockey game again? I don’t know. I still love my New York Rangers. Maybe someday I will go to another Rangers game. Right now, I’m only focused on my new beginning and it does not include hockey. I don’t even like to watch it on TV. It makes me violently ill to watch hockey games on TV. I’d rather spend my time watching something else.
Since this is the beginning of my new journey, I don’t want to say what I’m working on, because I may change my mind and go a completely different way. Because of my loyalty to Kevin, I may even help out on the back end at Inside Hockey.
I will continue to write and photograph, just not about hockey (except for my last 2 stories I owe IH). I plan on spending most of my time doing the things I’m passionate about and love. I haven’t been passionate about hockey since 2012. It’s 2016…it’s time to let it go and focus on the things I’m passionate about.
If there’s anything I learned from this last surgery, I’ve learned how precious little time I have left. I’d rather spend that time living my life to the fullest, doing the things that I love passionately so that when the time comes to let go of this life, I will feel like life is complete. I want to spend these last years cleaning out my soul and doing the things I was meant to do in this lifetime. I don’t have anymore time to waste on the things that do not bring me happiness. I want to use this borrowed time to create something fantastic that will stand the test of time.
Truthfully, I’m happy that I’m letting go of something I hate. It’s time. Thankfully, the universe gave me that boost and the tools I needed to see my new path…the happier one. I choose to be happy. Hockey just doesn’t make me happy anymore. It hasn’t for some time now.
So stay tuned to what happens. I’ll still be posting on my Twitter: @MichelleKenneth and @MichelleDoPW. Most of my blog writing will be at perfectionistwannabe.com. That site is more of who I am now. As for this page…I’m going to keep it up just because there are people referencing a few posts here.
If there’s anything you can learn from this…if you feel like you are in a situation you absolutely hate…let go of the branch and fly away. Start your new beginning.