After a heartbreaking and stunning loss against Finland in overtime last night, Canada has been eliminated from the World Junior Championships. And when the nation that invented the sport is upset in that fashion, they’ll, unsurprisingly, look for someone to blame.
Unfortunately, Ducks prospect Max Comtois, captain of the team, has been the primary target.
Since the loss, Comtois has been subjected to absolutely vile rhetoric on social media, including several death threats. It has become so much to deal with that his agent had to release a statement condemning the attacks, and the 19-year-old had to turn off comments on his Instagram posts.
This will be the only official statement regarding Max Comtois. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/EgNWrODqMC— Roy Sports Group (@RSGHockey) January 3, 2019
Sportsnet’s Faizal Khamisa showed a few of the comments on Comtois’ Instagram page before he locked it down.
These are some of the comments on Max Comtois’ instagram page. Do not be these people. Seriously, do not. pic.twitter.com/Qekc30WVwQ— Faizal Khamisa (@SNFaizalKhamisa) January 3, 2019
From death threats, to racist language that had to be called out by a Quebec politician, to people saying his career are “over” as a teenager, the amount of vitriol spewed by many has been utterly sickening.
Comtois aptly responded to some of the criticism, telling TSN, “It’s not the first time that I’m going to miss an important one. I’m just going to dig in and hopefully, if I get one more chance in my career, I’ll just try to bury it.”
Look, I’m not going to try and make excuses for some of his play during the tournament. He did embellish several hits during the tournament, and was largely quiet on the scoresheet outside of his four-goal outbreak against Denmark.
He also was called out for instances of dirty play, furthering the “nasty” Ducks reputation (that honestly doesn’t exist much anymore). Although anyone who has followed Comtois’ career to this point should be able to tell you that he’s had a reputation of playing on the edge for years. These are things worthy of logical and level-headed criticism.
But the second you cross into personal attacks and unfounded accusations against Canada’s second highest scoring player on a team that had issues putting up goals outside of the first game, that’s where we have a problem. Additionally, Comtois didn’t put himself out on the ice for the penalty shot in overtime. His coach, Tim Hunter is responsible for that. Any criticisms against him for that should be directed towards the bench boss.
Sportsnet personality and prospect evaluator Jeff Marek had a wonderful anecdote as one of our guests on an episode of Anaheim Calling: The Podcast last season. Marek has a habit of asking every prospect he interviews before the draft the question, “if the dressing room caught fire and you could only rescue one thing out of your hockey bag, what would you save?”
While most guys would save their stick or skates, some important memento, or some other piece of equipment, Comtois is the only prospect who answered, “my jersey”. According to Comtois, he plays for his jersey – he doesn’t play for his equipment.
Marek also said during the interview that Comtois is a guy who is often guilty of trying to cover for everyone and pick up slack with injuries to his team, as opposed to just playing his game. This, Marek believes, is one of the primary reasons why Comtois struggled so much in his draft year and dropped him to the 2nd round. If there’s one thing you can’t criticize him for, it’s his team-first style.
Comtois has his faults, certainly, but if you were wondering why he was chosen as Team Canada captain outside of being the only returning member of the squad, Marek’s comments are the answer.
At the end of the day, these are 17 to 19-year-olds playing junior hockey, a level that is literally built as a league focusing on individual player development. Anyone who feels the need to resort to personal attacks and emotional knee-jerking towards a developing teenager to satisfy whatever misplaced sense of superiority they are struggling with needs to evaluate how they approach their fandom.
This is a problem amongst all sports, not just hockey; that humans making hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars are viewed as less human compared people in other professions. Do you have to be able to withstand some level of criticism as a professional athlete? Of course. Does the money you’re making insulate you from relentless cyber-bullying and death-threats? Absolutely not.
More money or more athleticism doesn’t make someone any less human. Maxime Comtois has much to learn and improve upon, so how about we criticize what can be criticized, recognize that he’s a 19-year-old with seven points in 10 NHL games already who is still developing, and leave the personal attacks and death-threats out of it?
Let’s all use this situation as an opportunity to be better sports fans.