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Ex-junior players' guilty plea in child porn case a wake-up call for entire hockey community

Ryan Kennedy
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Thomas Carey and Brandon Smith. (Photo via Daily News) Author: The Hockey News

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Ex-junior players' guilty plea in child porn case a wake-up call for entire hockey community

Ryan Kennedy
By:

Two former members of the USHL's Lincoln Stars are in jail after pleading guilty to child pornography charges related to a video they made involving a female fan. The crime and punishment should serve as a wake-up call for all players, however.

Two former members of the USHL's Lincoln Stars have pleaded guilty to child pornography charges stemming from an encounter with a female fan in 2014. Thomas Carey and Brandon Smith are already in jail after submitting their pleas last week in Clay County, Minn., but neither will have to register as a sex offender.

Not only is this story disturbing, but it should serve as a lesson to the hockey world as a whole and in particular to junior-aged players.

The details of the story are as such: Carey and Smith admitted in court that Carey had sex with a 15-year-old in a Moorhead, Minn. hotel room in February 2014 and that the act was recorded by Smith on his phone. The video was then sent to someone else, where it began circulating. The victim found out and Smith then sent her the video. Both players (themselves 20 years old now) admitted they knew the girl was underage at the time.

In cutting a deal with prosecutors before trial, Carey and Smith are scheduled to serve 45 days in jail, receive 10 years of supervised probation, and in Carey's case, undertake sex offender counseling. Also of note, the two players are not allowed to blame the victim for their plight – otherwise the plea deal is scrapped.

This is key for me, as a lot of nasty stuff had been tabled in the lead-up to the trial. While the facts here seem simple – taping and distributing a video of a minor having sex is a crime – we've seen this story in sports time and again, where somehow the victim is at fault. And unless I missed a newsflash, the United States is a still a free country where a young woman has ownership over her own body, right? (right?)

If this had been an isolated incident, it would be bad enough. But I've spoken to junior players from other leagues (ie major junior in Canada) and it's not.

"I've seen videos where the girl was not aware (of being filmed)," said one recent CHLer. "I've also seen videos where the girl was aware and didn't care it was out there. I've seen a lot."

Now, the way teens communicate with each other these days is a hot topic. I'm not going to wade into consensual acts here, but the idea of a young woman being filmed without her consent is serious. Whether it's on a smartphone or webcam (players watching their teammates via Skype, for example), technology can have devastating effects on a teenager suddenly overwhelmed by unwanted attention. And a double standard still exists.

"I know 'puck bunnies' get labelled," said another recent CHLer. "The guys know they're easy and target them. You don't have to put in the time with them."

Technology has only sped things up.

"Social media has made it so much easier," said the second CHLer. "You like them on Facebook and next thing you know, they're at your house or you're at their house."

And again, I'm not commenting on what the teens are up to these days, but in a lot of these situations – the Carey and Smith case, for example – there was an obvious lack of thought for the young woman involved.

"With the guys, it's more of an event," said the first CHLer. "Rather than having respect for the female."

This is the heart of my point. Hockey may still be a closed community in a lot of ways, but it cannot remain stuck in the past. This casual (and sometimes outright) misogyny is no longer tolerated by mainstream society and how players act off the ice is under increasing scrutiny.

Systemically, I believe we're off to a decent start. Junior teams typically bring in a police officer at the beginning of the season to educate the boys on behavior and the players I spoke with said those sessions were a real eye-opener. I'm sure constant vigilance throughout the season would help even more, but let's focus on individual responsibility here.

It's up to the players to recognize the weight of their actions and adjust their behavior accordingly. I've spoken to junior kids in the past about teammates who have gotten in trouble and there always seems to be an excuse for their buddies; it's never the player's fault – it's the girl. Is this a matter of foxhole camaraderie, of strong bonds between teens who believe they have 20 brothers in the dressing room with them? I'm sure that's a big part of it, but it helps no one.

Lives are being potentially ruined by these incidents and if the perpetrators can't muster any respect for the victims, they should at least stop and think about the criminal implications for themselves, as an act of self-preservation.

As it is now, Thomas Carey and Brandon Smith will live the peak years of their lives under a cloud. They were suspended indefinitely by the Lincoln Stars as soon as the incident was uncovered and have narrowly missed being registered sex offenders. But they only have themselves to blame.

Based on how quickly elite players can process a situation on the ice, they should have no problem making the right calls outside the rink, as well.

 

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Ex-junior players' guilty plea in child porn case a wake-up call for entire hockey community