Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Players Turned Coaches Pleased with Change in OHL Culture over Past Decade

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Players Turned Coaches Pleased with Change in OHL Culture over Past Decade

Article excerpt

Coaches pleased with OHL culture change


Eric Wellwood and Jeff Kyrzakos can't believe the difference a decade has made in the Ontario Hockey League.

Both played in the major junior league in the mid-2000s, when they say hazing and verbal abuse were prevalent in OHL locker rooms. Now, as coaches, they feel that kind of toxic behaviour has been practically erased.

"It's completely different. It's mind-boggling to me the progression that the league has made in such a short time," Wellwood, the head coach of the Flint Firebirds, said Tuesday. "The last time I played in this league was the end of the 2010 season and now we're in to 2018 and the changes are astronomical."

Kyrzakos agrees that although there was hazing in the OHL when he was a player, the league has evolved in many ways.

"Did it go on? Absolutely. Was it a part of the culture in the OHL previously? Yeah," said Kyrzakos, an assistant coach with the Mississauga Steelheads. "But it's not now and hasn't been for a long long time. I really give the league and commissioner Dave Branch credit.

"I don't know that there's a more progressive league in the world, not just when it comes to hazing but head hits, fighting, all that stuff."

As players, both Wellwood and Kyrzakos were close to people who say they experienced extreme forms of hazing.

Kyrzakos is close friends with Dan Carcillo, and a former teammate of Dave Pszenyczny and Charles Amodeo. Those three came forward in late November, alleging that the Sarnia Sting in the early 2000s had a toxic culture of physical and emotional abuse.

Wellwood made his OHL debut for the Windsor Spitfires in the 2006-07 season, two years after the team was rocked by a hazing controversy that saw Moe Mantha given a one-year suspension as general manager and 25 games as coach for an incident involving several of his players. A new ownership group had taken over the Windsor franchise by the time Wellwood joined the team and had worked to wipe out the hazing culture.

In response to a complaint filed by Carcillo in 2003 and the Spitfires controversy, the OHL's board of governors developed the OHL Enforcement Program in 2009, designed to attempt to eliminate hazing and impose penalties if violations occur. …

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