The 2021 NHL Draft got off to a nice enough start. The sight of Jack Hughes vibrating with glee as his brother Luke got selected by Devils was an image that’ll live in my heart for a long time. Brandt Clarke’s reaction to getting picked by the Kings was another one to remember. And, selfishly, the sheer number of Michigan dudes picked early on made me want to get back to Yost Ice Arena at some point soon and catch the future of hockey.
But any goodwill generated by watching the happiest day of some young men’s lives was completely erased by the bullshit at the end. Not only did the Blackhawks, with the final pick, use eight of their female employees as a cynical PR shield while the franchise brushed aside the latest in the horrifying sexual assault allegations against former video coach Bradley Aldrich, but that transparent stunt immediately followed the Canadiens, with the 31st pick, drafting Logan Mailloux.
One week before the draft, Daily Faceoff reported that several NHL teams had put the 18-year-old Mallioux, who’s played in Sweden and in the Ontario Hockey League, on their “do not draft” list. Last year, Mallioux was summarily fined by Swedish authorities when he was 17 for taking a photo of an 18-year-old woman without her consent while they were having sex and subsequently circulating the picture among some of his teammates. On Tuesday before the draft, The Athletic spoke with Mailloux’s victim, who said that she had asked Mailloux for a sincere written apology and received only a brief text, which she felt came at the behest of Mailloux’s team’s officials.
“I do not think that Logan has understood the seriousness of his behavior,” she said.
One hour after that story was posted, Mailloux put out a statement on Twitter saying that he did not want to be drafted by any NHL team this year.
“I feel that this would allow me the opportunity to demonstrate an adequate level of maturity and character next season,” he wrote, “and provide all the NHL teams the opportunity to reassess my character towards the 2022 NHL Draft.”
I, along with I’m pretty sure a bunch of other people, took Mailloux’s request that he not be drafted as a sign that he would not be drafted this year. Boy, were we wrong. Just … why? That’s all I can really say here. Why? Just pick someone else. Though it would be no more defensible if he were, it’s not even like Mailloux is a generational talent. He’s just some teenaged defenseman that people think could be good. There are a lot of those. Pick one of them.
After the pick, the Habs released the kind of statement you’ve seen a million times before, just with new particulars. It refers to Mailloux’s offensive invasion of privacy as simply “his actions,” says that the Canadiens “are aware of the situation” (no shit?), and pats Mailloux on the back for acknowledging “his poor behavior.”
Arpon Basu pointed out that Habs GM Marc Bergevin used the word “unacceptable” four times to describe what Mailloux did. I’m not sure we’re working off the same definition of “unacceptable” here. The Habs are clearly just going through the motions, with no real regard for whether or not their language has any meaning. And, to be clear, this is a league-wide problem, not a team one. If it hadn’t been Montreal, apparently it would have been another GM deciding that Mailloux was a smart choice and not a slap in the face.
I do not see how a single person benefits from this pick. The woman in Sweden, first and foremost, is likely going to find it even harder to move on with her life as the man who victimized her becomes one of the top stories in hockey while receiving an NHL contract. Bergevin, meanwhile, has permanently stained his reputation with such a gross miscalculation, just weeks after denying that he knew about the Brad Aldrich allegations while part of the Blackhawks front office. Mailloux, too, won’t be granted what could have been a constructive year of anonymity—which he said, publicly, is what he wanted. And the Canadiens, as a team, just alienated a bunch of their fans right after putting together their most inspiring season in a quarter century. All because they thought they could get a bargain. That’s an awful lot to throw away instead of just taking the second name on their draft board.