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The NHL Couldn’t Live In The Past Forever

during the 2014 NHL Awards at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on June 24, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On Tuesday evening, the Anaheim Ducks abruptly announced that longtime general manager Bob Murray has been placed on administrative leave from the team following an initial report from a law firm hired to investigate "accusations of improper professional conduct." That's all the Ducks have to say publicly while the investigation continues, but reports are that Murray is accused of being just a total nightmare of a boss.

Murray, who has worked for the Ducks since 2005 and been GM since 2008, is accused of creating "a hostile workplace atmosphere by repeatedly scolding club employees, sending scathing messages to players, and berating the team’s coaches," according to the Los Angeles Times. Daily Faceoff adds some more detail:

Multiple league and team sources tell Daily Faceoff that Murray is under investigation for allegations of creating a toxic workplace environment by way of his repeated verbal abuse and harassment of Ducks players, coaches and personnel, plus his intimidation tactics and temper tantrums that fostered a culture of fear throughout the organization.

“Working for Bob Murray was pure daily mental warfare,” one source said. “The abuse was endless. Crazy text messages to players and staff berating them for their performance and threats of job security happened with regularity. These weren’t one-time slip-ups or mistakes. These were regular explosions and eruptions.”

Murray was with the Ducks in Vancouver on their road trip when the news came down, and reportedly was told to find his own way home.

This wouldn't be the first clue we've gotten to Murray's temper. In 2009 after a playoff loss in Detroit, Murray was accused of throwing a chair in the press box and injuring a TV stagehand. He was interviewed by police but not charged, and was found not liable for assault in a lawsuit brought by the stagehand.

More broadly, Murray finally getting popped now on what is alleged to be a long career of this stuff feels like part of the NHL's halting, painful shift toward purging some of its most pernicious good-old-boy bullshit and treating its workplace like, well, a workplace. This, like Mike Babcock being fired by the Maple Leafs in 2019 amid accusations of being verbally abusive toward players, would have been unthinkable in the sport even 10 years ago, when successful coaches and executives were allowed to run the place like their own personal fief with no regard for how they treated others, for no better reason than that's how it's always been in hockey.

Not that I am giving the NHL much credit here, mind you, for being proactive in any way. Former Calgary coach Bill Peters, accused of using racial slurs toward Akim Aliu and physically assaulting other players, was allowed to resign and the results of a league investigation have been kept under wraps. (Aliu's lawyer said last week that the NHL hasn't contacted him despite what it claimed publicly.) And Chicago would not have faced any reckoning whatsoever for covering up accusations of sexual assault against Brad Aldrich because they might've been a distraction from a Cup run, had Kyle Beach not filed a lawsuit. And even after everything was made public, one of the executives who let those allegations be buried was allowed to keep his job.

Indeed it feels like only the fear of lawsuits can force an entity as hidebound as the hockey world to do the right thing on occasion. (The Penguins settled one just yesterday, alleging that their AHL coach sexually harassed an assistant's wife, and that GM Bill Guerin told the assistant to keep quiet about it.) In this at least, the NHL is not very different from any other big, profitable enterprise which sees no reason to change until forced. But add to that base the spoiled brew of "toughness" and "masculinity" the sport values, which often manifest as workers being expected to put up with unconscionable shit from their bosses, and you get something uniquely rancid. If what's happening is indeed a reckoning, it's better that it happen than not. It'd just be nice if it happened for reasons other than ass-covering.

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