Homophobic and racist hazing rituals such as “Gay Tuesdays” and “Hard R Fridays” were part of life on a Massachusetts high school hockey team, according to one former player who says he was victimized.
The Boston Globe recently published an in-depth investigation piece detailing the apparent broken culture on the male varsity hockey team at Danvers High School. Danvers is a nearly all-white suburb located about 20 miles north of Boston.
Town and school officials are accused of covering up the episode, due to their refusal to publicly release three investigative reports about the matter. Danvers shared a heavily redacted copy of the special investigator’s report with the Globe after an order by state public records authorities.
“School officials and police have yet to inform the community about the alleged violent racist and homophobic locker room behavior or details of the virulent group text messages,” writes the Globe’s Bob Hohler and Brandon Chase.
The team’s head coach during the 2019-20 season, Stephen Baldassare, a highly respected police sergeant in the community, was even granted a new contract after the allegations had surfaced (he resigned last summer).
The alleged victim’s story outlines how locker room horseplay can turn insidious. On “Gay Tuesdays,” he says players would strip naked with the lights off and touch each other — and then guess who groped them. An assistant coach apparently walked in on one of these perverse sessions, only to say he “didn’t even want to know” what was going on, and then leave.
“Hard R Fridays” allegedly featured players shouting the n-word in the locker room. The alleged victim says teammates physically restrained him and hit him in the face with a pink sex toy when he didn’t join them.
More than half of the 2019-20 team allegedly participated in a vile group chat as well, where anti-Semitic, anti-gay and racist epithets were digitally thrown around with impunity.
After the school concluded its investigation, the superintendent told parents unspecified participants had faced unspecified consequences. No criminal charges were filed.
Max Leete, a three-time high school state wrestling champion who graduated from Danvers High, said he blames the team’s culture more than any alleged teenage actors. All of the team’s coaches deny knowledge of the reported behavior.
“Kids are kids, and kids can change,” he told the Globe. “But adults in power must be held accountable.”
The Danvers High story shows how bigoted attitudes and traditions trickle down from the pros all the way to the youth level. Just two weeks ago, former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Kyle Beach said teammates pelted him with anti-gay taunts after they learned of his sexual assault allegation against the club’s former video coach in 2010. Beach came forward as the “John Doe” in that longstanding investigation.
We know hockey culture is changing: Out NHL prospect Luke Prokop has received widespread support since coming out; every NHL team has hosted some form of a Pride or Inclusion night.
But it takes a lot of work to eradicate odious traditions, and starting at the youth level is crucial. You change culture from the bottom up.