Misogyny & Violence Against Women in the NHL: Team Responses to Fan Letters

Over the summer, I asked fans to write letters to their favorite NHL teams about the way they and the league address sexual assault, domestic violence and misogyny. I received 43 letters representing fans of 25 teams, and on September 6 I emailed all the fan letters to all 30 NHL teams, with the letters from each team’s own fans at the top of the email to that club. Copies also went out to the NHL and to the expansion franchise in Las Vegas.

The cover letter that topped the Ducks’ email, included below, was basically the same letter all the teams received, though there were slight variations for Chicago, Los Angeles and Nashville. The cover letters were addressed to team ownership and management, though in most cases the only email addresses I had were for the club’s communications department. In cases where I had an email address for an executive or general manager, I still cc’d members of the communications staff.

I sent follow-up emails every week to teams that either hadn’t responded or had sent replies that were incomplete or insufficient. I also tried to reach some non-responsive teams via Twitter. Now, just over a month later, every team has had ample time and opportunity to make a statement. The vast majority have chosen not to, but there is cause for hope in a few cases. Unless specified otherwise, all responses came from people within the teams’ communications departments.

Here is the cover letter, which also contained my personal email, home phone and cell phone:

Dear Dr. and Dr. Samueli, Mr. Schulman, Mr. Murray, and the Anaheim Ducks organization,

Last October I started a petition on change.org regarding how the NHL and its member teams address sexual assault and domestic violence among their players. The petition has garnered more than 36,000 signatures as well as attention in print, electronic and broadcast media. In April I met with Commissioner Bettman at the NHL’s New York office to discuss the petition and the larger issue of violence against women.

I left that meeting feeling very hopeful, but since then the NHL has kept silent on this topic even as more incidents continue to surface. Your fans haven’t forgotten, though, and they’re counting on you to advocate for them both within the Ducks organization and as a member of the league. Please take a few minutes to read the letters below and allow fans to tell you in their own words how they feel about spending time, money, and emotion on a league that refuses to publicly denounce sexual assault and domestic violence.

There are simple, concrete steps you can take to let fans know that the Ducks will not tolerate violence against women:

  • Do not draft, sign, trade for, or re-sign players with a history of sexual assault or domestic violence
  • Suspend any player under police investigation for committing an act of off-ice violence
  • Sever all ties with anyone who is convicted of these crimes
  • Establish a relationship with Anaheim-area charities and shelters that serve victims of these crimes
  • Urge the NHL to take a public stance against these crimes, because silence is a statement in itself

If you’d like to reach out to one or more of the authors below please don’t hesitate to ask. If you’d like to address the larger issue through me or change.org, I’ll be glad to facilitate that as well. Please contact me any time to confirm receipt of this email and/or discuss the topic further.

Thank you very much for your time,

Melissa Geschwind


Now, the responses. I’m starting with the teams that did not reply at all, to make sure everyone can see and note their names. I received nothing – not even confirmation or denial of receipt (after follow-up emails and attempts to contact them via Twitter) – from the following 17 teams:

  • Boston Bruins
  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Colorado Avalanche
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Edmonton Oilers
  • Florida Panthers
  • Los Angeles Kings
  • Nashville Predators
  • New York Islanders
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Louis Blues
  • Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Washington Capitals
  • Winnipeg Jets

These teams either care so little about their fans and the issue of violence against women that they couldn’t be bothered to respond, or they’re so concerned about avoiding difficult topics that they hoped by laying low they could avoid the issue altogether. (If they claim not to have received any of the communications, that won’t hold water – a team whose communications department is inaccessible by both email and Twitter is a team that is choosing to shut out its fans’ voices.) Teams are free to reverse course at any time by contacting me or the advocacy group of their choice and making an official statement, but if they fail to communicate their position to fans then that, in itself, is a powerful statement in favor of the status quo.


Slightly better are the teams that acknowledged receiving the letters but said little to nothing of substance:

• About three weeks after I sent the initial email, the Anaheim Ducks replied with “Thanks for reaching out. Obviously we would take any matter such as this seriously” and then asked for the email address of a specific Ducks fan who had written a letter. With that fan’s permission I passed along her email address. To date neither she nor I have heard anything further from the team.

• The Buffalo Sabres also responded to my first follow-up to ask me to resend. They confirmed receipt and said they would pass it along to team brass for a response. I last heard from them on September 26, when they said, “Sorry but nothing to report at this time.”

• Independent of one another, two different members of the Minnesota Wild’s communications staff each responded to my initial email very quickly. They offered “Thanks for the email and sharing your powerful message Melissa. Appreciate it” and “Thanks for the email and for bringing this important issue to the attention of our organization and league,” respectively. I held brief email conversations with each representative but ultimately the only official message that came out of them was this message from the one who had responded first: “I don’t have a specific message or any comments I would like to share on behalf of our organization.”

• On September 19, the Montreal Canadiens sent me this message: “We did receive your email but were unable to get back to you sooner. We will follow-up with you within the next few days. Thank you for your understanding.” I’ve sent them two follow-up emails since then but haven’t heard back.

• The New York Rangers’ reply, in its entirety, was: “We have received it. Thank you.” They did not answer when I asked if they had any more to say on the matter.

• The Philadelphia Flyers quickly replied to my first follow-up email to let me know they hadn’t received the original message. I re-sent it and as soon as it went through they confirmed receipt and referred me to the NHL.


Two teams gave somewhat more extensive responses, but not for the better:

• The Arizona Coyotes replied quickly to the initial email, saying:

“Thank you for the email. We appreciate you contacting us regarding this very serious and important topic. The Coyotes organization, from top to bottom, takes this issue very seriously and this type of behavior is not tolerated by anyone affiliated with our organization.  We are consistently working with the NHL in connection with league-wide programs to educate our players, raise awareness within our community, and support those affected by sexual assault and domestic violence.”

I’ll let the rest of the email exchange speak for itself:

Me: “Thank you for reading and for getting back to me so quickly! I’m going to touch base periodically with those who wrote letters and/or signed the petition, and I’d love to be able to give them specifics on what the Coyotes are doing to raise awareness and support victims. Are there details you can share?”

Coyotes: “Sorry Melissa but this information is confidential

Me: “Forgive me for being blunt, but how can efforts to raise awareness be confidential?”

Coyotes: “Sorry but we are keeping this information private

Me: “OK, then that’s what I’ll report back. I also wanted to give the team a chance to comment on the decision to sign Garret Ross, a move that could be viewed as provocative to victims and other female fans.”

Coyotes: “Thanks Melissa. Our comment is listed below.

“The Coyotes organization, from top to bottom, takes this issue very seriously and this type of behavior is not tolerated by anyone affiliated with our organization.  We are consistently working with the NHL in connection with league-wide programs to educate our players, raise awareness within our community, and support those affected by sexual assault and domestic violence.”

• The Dallas Stars sent their response on September 19, after receiving the second follow-up email. It read as follows:

We understand the passion that you have for this cause, and obviously it is an important one.  We work closely with the NHL, and do our own work internally, to address the wide range of issues that were brought up in your initial correspondence; from domestic violence all the way to the inclusion of the Ice Girls in game production, ice maintenance and marketing efforts.

Specifically to your points on domestic violence and sexual assault, we will always work in cooperation with the proper authorities, as well as in conjunction with the NHL, to appropriately deal with any matter that should arise.  As a member club of the NHL, we hold ourselves to a high standard in all realms.  That is a responsibility that we take seriously and we fully expect the members of our organization to lead by their example.

Thank you for raising these concerns,

[signature graphic]

I replied the next day with this message: “Thank you for getting back to me!

I’m having a little trouble understanding your message. What is the high standard the Stars hold yourselves to on these issues? What does the organization do to encourage and assist its members in leading by example?

I’m just trying to get some concrete information I can pass along as I begin to compile teams’ responses to the original email. If the Stars are taking positive steps in this area I certainly want to share that with your fans.

Thank you again for responding. I look forward to continuing the conversation!”

I have not received any further correspondence from the Stars.


Four other teams offered far more encouraging replies:

• A representative from the Flames Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Calgary Flames, reached out via phone and gave me a detailed breakdown of how much the Flames Foundation gives annually to charities that address domestic violence and/or sexual assault (all amounts in Canadian dollars):

  • $25,000 to the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
  • $15,000 to Rowan House
  • $15,000 to the Homefront Society for Prevention of Domestic Abuse
  • $15,000 to the Calgary YWCA
  • $6,000 to the Banff YWCA

You can find more information about the Flames Foundation under the “Community” tab on the team’s website.

The Flames’ communications department also emailed to let me know they had passed the letters along to team President Ken King, President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke and General Manager Brad Treliving. Unfortunately, I never heard back from any of those men. Still, I believe it’s a good sign that the Flames saw fit to reach out personally and share their charitable information with us. It means that the team understands that it’s important not only to give to these organizations but also to be vocal and show fans that these issues matter.

• Although I received no detailed information about the Columbus Blue Jackets’ policies regarding sexual assault and domestic violence, I did get this email from general manager Jarmo Kekalainen:


Thank you very much for reaching out to us regarding the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence.  I greatly admire your passion and advocacy for these issues and can assure you that our organization shares your abhorrence of this type of behavior.  This issue is among the topics we discuss every year with our players.  While our Foundation has its core pillars of giving, we have supported numerous initiatives in our community, including those in support of battered women, over the years and will continue to do so moving forward.  Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and those of others with us.

Yours sincerely,
Jarmo Kekalainen, General Manager, Columbus Blue Jackets

Kekalainen subsequently declined to offer further details, saying, “Our official team policies – covering many topics related and unrelated to conduct of this nature – are internal and not something we publicize.” While I’m always wary of organizations that lack transparency on these issues, I found Kekalainen’s words powerful, and that much more so because he sent and signed them himself. That email is definitely not boilerplate – this is something he took the time to consider and compose (people who have spoken with Kekalainen in the past tell me that the email sounds like his ‘voice’). I hope in the future he will choose to go public with the team’s sexual assault/domestic violence policies so the Blue Jackets can serve as an example for fans and for other teams. For now, though, I find Kekalainen’s response encouraging if not extensive.

• New Jersey Devils president Hugh Weber, with whom I’d spoken in the past about these issues, responded quickly to the initial email and subsequently spoke with me on the phone at some length. Weber displayed a real enthusiasm for establishing ties between the Devils and relevant charities and/or advocacy groups, asking me to recommend names (I offered a suggestion of my own and also consulted with a more experienced sa/dv advocate for advice on which other organizations might be good fits). I plan to stay in contact with Weber, who has assured me that once the team has connected with one or more of these groups and has taken concrete action, he will share the details with all of us. I fully intend to hold him to it and I am optimistic – due in large part to my previous interactions with Weber – that he will deliver.

• Lastly we have the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have yet to read the letters but who nonetheless remain a source of hope for me. The original email never got through to the Leafs for whatever reason (my best guess is that the sheer size of the file got it sorted into spam), but after I sent the first follow-up I got a very genial phone call from general manager Lou Lamoriello, whom I’d interviewed a few times back when I was a hockey writer. Lamoriello let me know he hadn’t received the initial email and asked me to resend, which I did to no avail. After a few failed attempts to send the letters via email, Lamoriello (again over the phone) suggested I send a hard copy to team president Brendan Shanahan, since Lamoriello had been told that Shanahan has experience with charitable work in this area. The letters arrived at Shanahan’s office on October 3, but he was travelling. His assistant told me to expect a call this week. I’ll keep everyone posted on how this develops.


Thank you all, as always, for your support and your voices! If you’re not satisfied with your favorite team’s response you can always contact them directly to let them know. Season ticket holders, in particular, can go through their ticket agents to send a message the team has no choice but to hear. And of course I’ll continue updating as this continues to develop.

30 thoughts on “Misogyny & Violence Against Women in the NHL: Team Responses to Fan Letters

  1. Good for you on fighting the good fight, Melissa! It’s encouraging that some teams at least are taking this seriously.

  2. Thanks for your work on this, Melissa. The various teams’ approaches to this are elucidating, and unfortunately more often depressing than not.

  3. As a long time San Jose Sharks fan and DV survivor, I’m disappointed they didn’t respond. Are there any additional steps we can do to get their attention? Especially after making it to the Finals last year, it would be wonderful to have strong support and statement from the Sharks, plus other teams.

    • If you want to make an impact I’d suggest reaching out to the team directly. You can try Twitter and/or email first, but you probably have the best chance to reach someone if you call. If you’re a season ticket holder, try your ticket agent. Otherwise take a shot at the office of the GM or the public relations department. And if other Sharks fans want to join in, even better!

  4. Thank you for your efforts. Unfortunately, it’s a systemic problem. Because they are sports that society values, fans tend to ‘turn a blind eye’ at such behavior, and honestly, this happens in every day life. It’s almost acceptable for men to behave so badly. The only thing that I can do is not to support any popular men’s sport team: NBA, NFL, NHL. I grew up watching sports but because I can’t support a lot of the bad behavior; I don’t support these sports teams.

  5. Melissa: Although I don’t follow any of the above-mentioned sports, the subject is a serious one and you are to be congratulated on pursuing this important matter. I am forwarding your comments on to several friends. Keep up the good work. I wish you success.

  6. This was a great, revealing read. I’m disappointed in the number of actual responses with any meat to them, but honestly not all that surprised. It’s refreshing to see a sports fan taking a vested interest in bringing the sports world into modern times.

  7. USA Hockey magazine just used Patrick Kane on the cover of their magazine this month. I know he wasn’t convicted, but shows how far there is to go with this issue. Keep it up and let’s hope the Devils & Leafs lead the way going forward.

  8. Pingback: Misogyny & Violence Against Women in the NHL: Team Responses to Fan Letters — The Melissaverse – voice of voiceless isiolo.

  9. I was married to a college football player (Rutger’s University/NJ) and he is imo a misogynist who alienated me with my 3 boys after we divorced. He went to work on Wall Street after college ball (imo, a breeding ground for former athletes, they love the “sport”, competition of trading stocks/bonds/commodities).

    I appreciate your efforts Melissa. I think the best awareness now is Education for women so we no longer choose misogynist men to marry & SO we get empowered with self esteem needed to raise healthy boys, as well as our other life experiences.

  10. Very insightful! As a Dallas Stars fan, at first, I was filled with pride with their initial response but after reading that they wouldn’t give clarification and send more concrete information, I felt cheated and left out to dry. Keep up the good work and I think that I am going to get my son to contact them as he is an advocate for the Dallas Area Rape council and volunteers as one of their counselors. I’m so glad to have this information brought to light. Thank you

    • To be fair, the Stars did provide names of organizations and amounts the team has contributed. The problem is that the timeframes are very inconsistent and somewhat difficult to interpret – i.e. one figure is the amount they’ve given to a certain charity since 2003, while another is a single-year donation to a different organization, etc. Yesterday I asked for clarification in the form of information pertaining only to 2015-16 or 2016-17, and while I haven’t heard back yet, it has been only a day since my last email to Dallas. I’m glad to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ll reply soon.

  11. sport culture is so different and people treat sportsmen differently as well. Your work is awesome. One should be questioning of their country’s sportsmen/women, under no circumstances should they allow such behavior, because they are role models to some of the country’s young people. Keep it up🙂

  12. Thank you for your efforts that provide reassurance, to say the least, to many in need. Hope those NHL members understand the gravity of this issue and decide to revert back for the better.

  13. Those 17 teams didn’t reply because this topic is an utter waste of time. Why should a sports franchise give a shit about who they sign. If major sports start picking apart people for crimes then EVERYONE else should too (WalMart etc…).

    Just cause some hockey player pissed you off once in a past life doesn’t mean everyone else should care.

  14. I love what you are doing we need people to understand that rape and sexual assault is a serous issue. we need players like Patrick Kane and Evander Kane and others to be punished for what they have done. I feel that the Sabres didn’t do much regarding punishment for the awful thing that Evander Kane did over the summer, he just continued to play hockey. (he got during the sabres home opener) if he doesn’t get punished for what he has done (he garbed a girl buy the throat and choked her at a bar) I will be boycotting the Buffalo Sabres just like how i am boycotting the Blackhawks right now. keep up the good work

  15. So inspiring to read your commitment. These issues are not going away unless we consistently and persistently make this a focus. I don’t want to sound sexist, but the majority of these crimes are perpetuated by men against women and they just don’t get that life is hard enough without your gender making you a target.

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