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'More interested on the potential of winning': Criticism surrounding Canadiens' first round draft pick

Last Updated Jul 26, 2021 at 6:34 pm EDT

MONTREAL (CityNews) – Women’s advocates say the Montreal Canadiens are trivializing sexual violence after drafting Logan Mailloux.

The decision to draft the young defenceman shocked the hockey world and Habs fans, and many are saying it sends the wrong message.

“I think it says a lot about their priorities and that they’re clearly more interested on the potential of winning than they are of building a cohesive team,” said Julie S. Lalonde, public educator & women’s rights advocate.

Mailloux paid a $1,650 fine for showing teammates with SK Lejon in Sweden a Snapchat of him engaged in a consensual sexual activity with a woman who did not consent to having such images shared with anyone. “You have someone who admitted to sexual assault and the team has still prioritized his talent on the ice with the message it sends to folks and to me that message is ‘we don’t care, we don’t care that he committed harm, we don’t care that we are offending the women and the survivors who watch our games, we don’t care,” Lalonde said.

Prior to Friday night’s draft, where the Canadiens selected Mailloux 31st overall, Mailloux released a statement, asking that he not be drafted. “Being drafted into the NHL is an “honour and a privilege,” he wrote in the statement, adding he didn’t feel that he has “demonstrated strong enough maturity or character to earn that privilege in the 2021 Draft.” “I know it will take time for society to build back the trust I have lost, and that is why I think it is best that I renounce myself from the 2021 NHL Draft and ask that no one select me this upcoming weekend. I feel that this would allow me the opportunity to demonstrate an adequate level of maturity and character next season with the London Knights in the OHL, and provide all the NHL teams the opportunity to reassess my character towards the 2022 NHL Draft,” the statement added.

But on Saturday he spoke about the draft and his hopes for playing for the Habs.

“I know I had said I did not want to be drafted this year, but as a young man who wants to become a better person, I feel that being accompanied by the Montreal Canadiens organization will help me greatly they have committed to help me grow as a person and I thank them for this.”

Whilst some insist Mailloux is young and deserves a chance to prove himself, many Habs fans are left unimpressed by the team’s choice. Some even say the move ruined the love and admiration fans had for the organization after an incredible Stanley Cup run.

“This year, we had a good run and we’re expected to be a team that would do appropriate things we are a pretty respectable team that has a good legacy,” one fan said. “Then seeing this, it doesn’t really show our reputation.”

Lalonde says NHL players and prospects are role models for young people who will know what he did, and how he still wound up being selected in the draft.

“The Habs management made it clear that they don’t care about sexual assault survivors at large,” Lalonde said.

“They’ve given carte blanche to future players to do whatever the heck they want and to still get drafted,” she added.

Despite the criticism, Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin stands by his choice, calling Mailloux “a young man who recently admitted to making a serious mistake.”

“The Canadiens are aware of the situation and by no means minimize the severity of Logan’s actions. Logan understands the impact of his actions. His recent public statement is a genuine acknowledgement of his poor behaviour and the first step on his personal journey.”

Bergevin says the club is committing to “providing him with the tools to mature and the necessary support to guide him in his development,” and “raising awareness among our players about the repercussions of their actions on the lives of others.”

-With files from Sportsnet