One of the ugliest things I saw from the hockey media and a segment of the National Hockey League's base over the past week was the treatment of Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault. Vigneault became the target of an outrage mob this week when he had no comment to offer regarding the protests in the National Basketball Association, not because he didn't care but simply because he was not aware of what was going on. Vigneault told reporters at the time that he had been extremely busy in recent days and had not had the chance to so much as read a paper or turn on his television, something that is not very hard to believe given he is in the midst of the Stanley Cup playoffs and stuck in the bubble on top of that.
Here's what Vigneault said, I honestly can't understand how anyone could have read negative intentions into these words:
"Listen, I'm disappointed to disappoint you again with my answer, but ever since we eliminated Montreal, the only thing that's been open in my room is my computer, to hockey games," said the Flyers bench boss. "I've been trying to prepare my team the best way I can. We played yesterday, the only thing that was open in my room after the game was my computer to get our games ready. I have really no idea what's going on in the outside world. We're in this bubble right now, I'm invested 24 - 7 on our team, working 20 hours a day going through video and preparing our group. I don't do Twitter, I haven't read a sports article in I don't know how long, and I haven't read any type of article in I don't know how long. I guess I'm a hockey nerd, and that's what I'm doing right now."
Now call me crazy but, not only is that not offensive it is exactly the kind of thing I would want to hear from a head coach who has sacrificed to be inside the bubble for a chance at the Stanley Cup. There were analysts, and I use that term loosely here, like TSN's Craig Button who went way over the top with their outrage and frankly I would go so far as to say that folks like Button embarrassed themselves with their over the top outrage here.
"He's being ignorant but I wouldn't call it blissful," said Button on TSN. "I would call it abhorrent and indefensible. Just because you are coaching hockey in a bubble doesn't mean that the issues that have been going on for centuries aren't still prevalent. This is really woeful on Alain Vigneault's part."
A shameful statement on the part of Button who ascribes the worst possible motives to Vigneault who's actual answer was effectively 'I don't know.' Well to his credit Alain Vigneault issued a statement on Saturday and he refused to apologize to the outrage mob and to pundits like Craig Button who did their best to tarnish his reputation. The Flyers head coach did address his critics however but simply suggested that they stay safe during the pandemic and had nothing more to add for those people.
In life, I answer to my parents. I answer to my family. I answer to my friends and I answer to God. Everyone that I've just mentioned knows that what I've said since our post-game on Wednesday is the truth. My honesty, my integrity, and my social commitment for some reason has been pushed to the forefront.
After our last game against the New York Islanders, I was asked about the situation in the NGA. We had played a 3 o'clock game. I didn't know what was going on, so I didn't comment. We got back that night at 6:15 at the hotel. I picked up some food, had a martini and went to my room to work. We were playing in less than 24 hours. I worked late into the night, got up very early the next morning and continued to work. I conducted my 10:30 to 11:45 coaches meeting. At 11:45, I went to get COVID tested. At 12:00, I was back here for a press conference. I never bothered to ask or checked with anyone what was going on in the world or the NBA. I am guilty of that. I was totally focused on our next game. Like I said at the 12:300 press conference, I am for equality and I am for social justice.
After that press conference, I went to our pre-game meal. I left there around 12:35 and as I walked out, I saw players from the four teams that are in the bubble talking. That was my first indication that something was going on. Shortly, very shortly after that, I received a text from one of my players, telling me that they were not playing that evening. I am guilty of not checking up on what was going on in the world and in the NBA, but I am a good person. I believe in equality. I believe in social justice. I want to be part of the solution. I want to help society in any way I can.
To all of the people that have texted me and called me in the last 48 hours to show their support, I want to say thank you and continue to stay safe. To all of the people in the last 48 hours that have questioned my honesty, questioned my integrity and questioned my social commitment, I want to say you also stay safe. We all have our part to do moving forward to help society fix this issues. Maybe we can all start by being good to one another. Society is like a big team. Everyone has a role to play. If we work together and do our roles, I am convinced that we can fix society's issues. I want to thank everyone for being here. Everyone stay safe and that concludes today's press conference. Thank you. Stay safe.