Cover

THE HELL OF HAZING

Jane O’Hara March 6 2000
Cover

THE HELL OF HAZING

Jane O’Hara March 6 2000

THE HELL OF HAZING

Cover

Jane O’Hara

When Jean-François Caudron arrived at the University of Vermont training camp on a hockey scholarship four years ago, he was a keen rookie who played hard to prove himself to his coaches. But he knew it would take more than pinpoint passing and a knack around the net to win the respect of his teammates. Before he would be truly accepted, there was one final, brutal test he would have to pass: a rookie hazing, which in-

At universities and in junior hockey, rookies often undergo barbaric initiation rites

volved shaving his pubic hair, painting his toenails and guzzling warm beer until he vomited. Caudron was well aware that initiation rites were banned at the University of Vermont, as they are at all U.S. colleges. But from past experience in Canadian hockey, he knew there was no escaping “rookie night.” Surviving it would mean he was man enough to make the squad. “It happened on every junior team I played for,” said the 20-yearold Caudron, a native of St-Hubert, Que. “You knew about this night and you were nervous. You feel the pressure that you have

to do it. I didn’t want to be an outsider. So I did it. But once it was over, I was so happy. I really felt part of the team.”

This season, Caudron helped his teammates haze the incoming crop of UVM rookies. As always, the freshmen were told to keep silent. But goalie Corey LaTulippe of Williston, Vt., refused to follow the script. After he was hazed on Oct. 2—along with three Canadian rookies—he went public and filed a $275,000 (U.S.) civil suit against the university for emotional damage and financial loss. That created a storm of publicity and prompted an investigation by Vermont’s attorney general, which last month led to the cancellation of the remainder of the UVM Catamounts’ hockey season.

According to a massive study of 10,000 American college and university athletes commissioned by Alfred University of Alfred, N.Y., last year, 80 per cent of college jocks are hazed. Although there has never been a similar study done in Canada, researchers say hazing is commonplace in junior hockey and Canadian college sports. “Hazing is routine, but it is really kept under wraps,” said Jamie Bryshun, who wrote a master’s thesis at the University of Calgary on sports hazing in 1997. “There’s a one-upmanship involved. After a rookie has been hazed, he can hardly wait to do it to the next guy and he wants to do it worse than he got. The cycle just repeats itself.” Modern initiation rituals—in sports, military and fraternity settings-—can be traced back to primitive societies

where young boys underwent often painful rites of passage into manhood. Eric Dunning, a British sports sociologist, believes the roots of rugby hazings can be linked to the 19th-century British public schools’ “fagging” system, where older boys bullied younger boys to do their bidding. American hazings, he adds, tend to be more “sadistic” than their British counterparts: “There’s a social pressure to go over the top. They are an absolute test of masculinity.”

Experts say sport remains one of the few preserves where primitive codes of masculinity can flourish. These traditions are often hard to stamp out, especially since even many of those who remember their experiences as brutal seem, on the other hand, so proud to have passed the test. “Men can’t go out of their caves and drag a woman home by the hair anymore,” says Dunning. “These rituals let some men still express that extreme form of masculinity.”

Bryshun’s study is one of the most comprehensive looks at hazing in Canada. In it, 50 Canadian male and female athletes in sports ranging from football to synchronized swimming talked about their experiences, and the practices they describe range from high jinks to criminally abusive conduct. They include blindfolded drunken rookies bobbing for apples in toilets they think contain feces, or running relay races with pickles stuck in their buttocks. Those are the comparatively harmless pranks. But Bryshun also details the case of one hockey player who tied a bucket to his penis with a skate lace and withstood the pain as veterans tossed pucks into the bucket.

The experience can leave psychological scars. One university hockey player cried when he recalled a hazing in junior

hockey. He told Bryshun that rookies on his team were forced to stand on chairs and chug an unpalatable alcoholic concoction while the vets blew cigar smoke in their faces. The goal of the game was to get the rookies to vomit into a pail on the floor; when they missed, they were forced to clean it up. “The more aggressive the sport, the more aggressive the hazing,” said Bryshun, a former football and basketball player who admits he was both hazed and hazed others. “The more sanc-

tions there are against it, the more athletes won’t talk about it, the more it is being driven underground.”

The Vermont attorney general’s report, released on Feb. 3, reads like Lord of the Flies crossed with the Marquis de Sade. In graphic detail, it outlines how UVM players ordered nine freshmen to prepare for “rookie night” by shaving their pubic hair and painting their toeand fingernails, then show up at the team captains house wearing only thong bikini underwear and togas. When they arrived, they were told to strip and lie facedown on the basement floor while older players poured and spat beer on them. They were then forced to drink a strong liqueur and eat a seafood quiche, which made some of them vomit.

But the indignities did not stop there. There was a nude pushups contest where cups of beer were strategically placed under the rookies’ genitals. At another point, the freshmen players vomited again after being herded into a closet and told to quickly drink 32 cans of beer, which had been heated to the temperature of warm tea. The rookies were also forced to parade nude in an “elephant walk.” As one UVM player described it: “You line up in a single file and each person goes between the legs of the other person and grabs their

Taking One for the Team

•June, 1998 Three members of Calgary’s Bantam Triple-A Buffaloes are given one-year suspensions for rubbing their genitals into the faces of other players.

•November, 1998 Three rookies quit the University of Western Ontario Mustangs football team after they refuse to partake in the Mustangs’

infamous hazing party. No players are suspended, but the coach sits out the final two games.

•October, 1998

McMaster University uncovers hazing rituals on the men’s rugby and volleyball teams. The administration suspends both teams for one game apiece and says hazing

has been an ongoing problem at the school.

• 1997 The Ontario Hockey League investigates after rookies on the Kingsville Comets, an Ontario Jr. C team, are forced to strip in a team bus washroom and then made to run down the aisle while their teammates hit them around the genitals.

• 1995 Rookies on a midget team in Jonquière, Que., are

forced to strip and watch pornographic movies as part of a 10-hour initiation. They also had to spread molasses and mustard on their genitals.

•September, 1993

Criminal charges are laid against some members of Ontario’s Tilbury Hawks Jr. C hockey team because of hazing activities that include drinking games, shaving of pubic hair and forcing people to eat inedible concoctions.

The CIAU, which oversees university sport, has no policy that specifically bans hazing

penis. And you can’t break the chain. You’re supposed to go wherever they tell you and keep walking like that.” Bryson Busniuk, a burly forward from Thunder Bay, Ont., was one of the UVM freshmen who was hazed. Although he refused to discuss the incident, he admitted that the activity was routine. “It’s not the first time it’s happened,” said the 20year-old. “It’s not just the UVM that does it. It’s out there. But I don’t want to talk about it.”

Other Canadian players maintained that this year’s UVM

hazing was relatively mild compared with former initiations— but similar to what they went through in junior hockey in Canada. Benoit Lampron, now in his last year on a hockey scholarship, admitted that when he was hazed at UVM in 1996, players were stripped naked and forced to do pushups in the freezing water of Lake Champlain—a practice that was stopped after one player suffered an asthmatic attack. As well, there was an event called “the olive run” where freshmen were made to carry olives between their buttocks while being struck with wooden cooking spoons. Lampron admits that, to outsiders, this makes the hockey players

look like “perverts.” But he quickly added: “This is pretty much what we do in Canada. There, it’s no big deal.”

Canadian sports regulators insist there is a zero-tolerance policy against hazing. But the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union, which oversees Canadian university sport, has no policy that specifically bans it. CIAU administrators say some universities have specific guidelines against hazing, while others have it covered in their more general anti-harassment and abuse rules. The Canadian Hockey Association, which governs amateur hockey, has a regulation against condoning or participating in hazing with a penalty of a one-year suspension. But even that is negotiable: the rule states that if the suspension causes “undue hardship” to the team, a lesser penalty can be imposed with the approval of CHA officers.

During an interview, one Alberta hockey executive had trouble finding the hazing rule in his 165-page book of bylaws and regulations. The word hazing was not listed as a sep-

arate item, nor did it appear in the index. “It’s here somewhere,” said Howard Wurban, the executive director of Hockey Alberta. “Bear with me, I’ll find it.” Wurban never did locate the anti-hazing rule, but said that in his 14 years at Hockey Alberta he’d heard of only one case of hazing. “Sorry I have no dirt for you,” said Wurban. “The teams are doing a better job now of ensuring it doesn’t happen.”

Either that or the players are doing a better job of ensuring they don’t get caught. University of Calgary sociologist Kevin Young says that often coaches and administrators downplay the incidence of hazing. Young began studying the phenomenon at McMaster University in Hamilton during the mid-1980s, after he himself had been hazed while playing rugby. He says many players continue to justify degrading initiation rites because they believe they build team solidarity. Yet Young says there is almost no evidence to support that view. On the contrary, he says, hazing “is really about power hierarchies”—who’s got power and who doesn’t.

One thing is clear: most people who have been hazed never forget it. Former Quebec Nordiques prospect Dave

Tremblay remembers his initiations with distaste. “Some teams were mild, others were cruel,” said Tremblay, who retired from professional hockey in 1993 because of an injury and now runs a Toronto hockey school called Hockey Extreme. “If you get the wrong individual running them, it’s like playing with a rottweiler.” In the mid1980s, when Tremblay joined the Pickering Panthers of the Ontario Hockey Association, he and his fellow rookies were jumped in the team dressing room after practice, blindfolded and shaved. The vets then made him sit on a chair slathered in liquid heat Rub A-535 liniment. The active ingredient is capsaicin, derived from hot

chili peppers—which burned his genitals badly. “I went home and sat in a cold bath all night,” he said.

In 1987, Tremblay was hazed again when he won a scholarship to attend Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. “It was all about peer pressure,” he said. “If you wanted to bond with these guys and be accepted by them, you knew you were going to have to go through this.” A local bar owner friendly to the club turned the keys to his place over to the veterans. In a drinking contest, Tremblay had to repeatedly tumble from one end of the bar to the other, drinking a shot of liquor at each end. “Between the tumbling and the shooting,” he said, “I was a wreck.” Tremblay said he suffered alcohol poisoning and was sick for three days afterwards. Still, he remembers his teammates somewhat fondly. “They came by and checked on us when it was over,” he said. “They didn’t just beat the crap out of us and leave us.” In the barbaric business of hazing, that’s cold comfort. E3