Trigger warning: Sexual violence.
After coming up short in the Stanley Cup final, the Montreal Canadiens have lost again after drafting a player charged with distributing a sexual photo without consent.
In the recent NHL entry draft, the franchise selected 18-year-old defenceman Logan Mailloux in the first round, a move that has generated a great deal of complex, divisive dialogue.
Whether users’ comments condemn or condone Mailloux’s unlawful conduct, they help highlight the ongoing influence of rape culture in men’s hockey and prompt a necessary, contentious discussion about whether — and when — athletes accused of sex crimes deserve a second chance from teams and fans.
Daily Faceoff reported that many NHL organizations had unofficially placed Mailloux, from Belle River, Ont., on their “do not draft” list after the would-be first-round pick was charged in Skelleftea, Sweden with both offensive photography (kränkande fotografering) and defamation. He was ordered to pay a fine.
While on loan from the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, Mailloux secretly captured a lewd photograph of a young woman during a sexual encounter and, without her consent, later uploaded that image — along with her first name and age to a group chat with his Swedish teammates on Snapchat.
Mailloux, who was 17 years old at the time of the incident in November 2020, was fined approximately $2,000 and was allowed to continue playing in the Swedish Hockeyettan without further repercussions.
As word of Mailloux’s misconduct spread, NHL teams began distancing themselves from the prospect: a cautious, calculated move that prompted the defenceman to issue a statement on Twitter, renouncing himself from the 2021 NHL draft to give teams a year to reassess his character and maturity.
When Mailloux was drafted 31st overall by the Montreal Canadiens, most analysts were surprised, and critics voiced valid questions about whether Mailloux should have been drafted so soon — or ever.
A public apology
Mailloux apologized publicly eight months later by expressing deep regret over his “stupid,” “egotistical,” “childish” and “irresponsible” mistake.
The defenceman’s tweet, though likely composed by his agent or lawyer, reflects a necessary, prescriptive commitment to personal reflection and growth.
In an interview after the draft, Mailloux admitted: “I do not think that I earned the right to be drafted.” Mailloux’s message is clear and arguably genuine, but its delivery is convoluted, especially because the woman he photographed claims to have received little more than an insincere three-sentence apology.
A culture of sexual violence
For months, Mailloux has been taking part in counselling with a therapist. An independent psychological report, available to NHL teams upon request, reveals that Mailloux possesses strong “impulse control,” “emotional intelligence” and “social responsibility.”
Why, then, did he choose to commit such a crime?
Like many male athletes, Mailloux admitted to feeling “pressure from the guys” and sent the photograph as a “trophy” to “impress” his teammates. His honesty about feeling compelled to both document and share evidence of his intimate experiences — which in no way excuses his deplorable actions — exposes the culture of sexual violence that so often permeates men’s sport and defines various forms of masculinity.
Rape culture, in part, is a collection of systemic attitudes and behaviours that both foster and trivialize sexual assault by teaching boys and men that it is normal and acceptable to objectify girls and women. As a patriarchal function, this culture absolves sexual perpetrators of responsibility and accountability.
The fact that Mailloux uploaded the picture to a group chat likely — and surely — means that he is not the first of his teammates to do so. Across all sports, some male athletes treat social media as a virtual locker rooms, where they brag of their sexual achievements and share sordid stories of their “conquests” of women.
Prioritizing skills over ethics
The NHL is no stranger to this morbid, misogynistic form of so-called entertainment. Last year, the Washington Capitals terminated the contract of Brendan Leipsic after details from a private Instagram group chat that defiled and mocked women had been leaked to the public.
Though Mailloux may indeed be serious about bettering himself to regain the trust of his fan base and new organization, his invitation to join one of the most celebrated clubs in sport — and the problematic, positive reception he has already received from many social media users — implicitly condone his crime.
When news broke of Mailloux’s story, users across social media were quick to defend him by describing him as a “kid” who made a “simple, innocent mistake” by sending a “harmless” picture to his friends. Angry that someone had “snitched” and broken a sacred, unspoken rule of the sport, a serious crime became a “young boy’s shortcoming” in a “hockey culture” that should have done more to protect one of its own.
Their opinions were vindicated by the Canadiens’ decision to prioritize skills over ethics.
When the Canadiens’ assistant general manager Trevor Timmins was asked about drafting Mailloux against his personal wishes, he paused for a telling 21 seconds of silence before asking for the question to be rephrased.
Later in the interview, Timmins added:
“We’re going to help him through this difficult time, the difficult waters he has. We have a really good support staff that’s going to help him along and we believe in him.”
If Mailloux is as remorseful as he has made himself seem for the media, I do hope that he can learn from his wrongdoing. However, discussing the alleged difficulty that Mailloux is facing is egregious and disrespectful to the victim of Mailloux’s crime — as well as all survivors of sexual violence.
In a statement following the draft, the Canadiens noted that they “by no means minimize the severity of Logan’s actions.”
However, by drafting Mailloux and attempting to justify their actions by perpetuating the sexual violence they claim to denounce, the Canadiens have done just that. By underscoring male privilege in hockey, the Montreal Canadiens have not only tolerated rape culture, but legitimized it.