Former NHL forward Anson Carter wasn’t surprised when news broke Monday night of a video being posted online involving Ottawa Senators players joking about and criticizing their team’s coaches and defence. He thought it would be occurring more often.
“You see cameras all the time. People could be eavesdropping on conversations or live streaming them,” the ex-player-turned studio analyst says over the phone.
In the five-minute recording, from the dash of an Uber driver’s van or SUV on Oct. 29 in Phoenix, Senators players Thomas Chabot, Dylan DeMelo, Matt Duchene, Alex Formenton, Chris Tierney, Chris Wideman and Colin White are shown talking about the team’s ineffective penalty kill and mocking special teams coach Marty Raymond.
Carter didn’t act that way before the Washington Capitals acquired him in a Jan. 23, 2004 trade with the New York Rangers for fellow forward Jaromir Jagr.
Summoned to coach’s office
Shortly after reporting to his new team, an appreciative Carter was told the private driver for Capitals general manager George McPhee (now GM of the Vegas Golden Knights) would take him to his condo in New York so he could grab some belongings before the team’s next game in Philadelphia.
Sitting in the back seat, Carter says he was on the phone with his hairstylist to help arrange her flight to New York from Edmonton, where he had played the previous season. When you have dreadlocks and find someone who does your hair properly, says the Toronto native, you go to great lengths to have them see you.
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About two weeks later, Carter was summoned to Capitals head coach Glen Hanlon’s office.
Shocked at the accusation, Carter left the meeting to join his teammates at practice but couldn’t stop thinking about his coach’s words. He later infered that McPhee’s driver must have twisted the story and told the GM and/or Hanlon.
“He probably heard ‘Female, flying in early, on a day off,'” Carter says of the driver. “He’s not hearing about her doing my hair. I was pissed. This was an invasion of my privacy. Someone was eavesdropping on the conversation and [the Capitals] either planted this guy … and that was not a good look.”
McPhee mum on incident
Carter, who was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings less than six weeks later, said he never discussed the matter further with either McPhee or Hanlon and hasn’t had the opportunity to do so since. Hanlon now coaches in Hungary.
You wouldn’t expect them to throw you under the bus since they’re paid to take you from Point A to Point B, but now I know.— Former NHL forward Anson Carter on Uber drivers
“We’ll respectfully decline commenting on this matter,” a Golden Knights spokesperson, speaking on behalf of McPhee, told CBC Sports on Tuesday night.
The Capitals, under different management, said they no longer have a personal driving service for the team.
Carter, who played for eight teams in 10 NHL seasons, says he chose to share his “eye-opening learning experience” to warn athletes to never assume the driver from a car service will respect your privacy.
If Carter receives a call from his wife or two daughters while travelling for work with NBC and MSG Network, he tells them he’ll call back when he’s in his own car.
Players’ comments ‘no big deal’
“I don’t trust any of these drivers,” he says. “You wouldn’t expect them to throw you under the bus since they’re paid to take you from Point A to Point B, but now I know.
“I look back and I’m actually thankful it did happen to me because it’ll never happen to me again.”
Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean agreed no one should be shocked that people may make inappropriate comments while kibitzing late at night.
Weak penalty kill
“This story … is just really troubling,” he said in an upcoming Hockey Night in Canada podcast. “It creates in us a little paranoia about ‘God, if we ever go out drinking again what do we do?’
“I don’t know what we could have done to maybe alter the storytelling … but one thing that really leapt out at me when the story broke was the way it finds its place at the front of the headlines without nuance, without maybe a fairer reporting of understanding, of compassion, some of the things that I think are appropriate.”
Ottawa entered Tuesday’s game against New Jersey with a 5-6-3 record and 29th among 31 teams with a 68.8 per cent success rate on the penalty kill.
“I’m sure the guys on the penalty kill aren’t just carving the coach and not saying anything in the room,” says the 44-year-old Carter, who scored 202 goals and 421 points in 674 NHL regular-season games. “You want to have that constructive conversation [with the coach]. That’s how you improve.”
The video recording is the latest scandal for a team that’s been riddled with them lately.
Negative headlines dogged the Senators last season, including a threat by owner Eugene Melnyk to move the team if ticket sales didn’t improve. And in May, the wife of former captain Erik Karlsson filed an order of protection against Mike Hoffman’s fiancee, claiming she had posted over 1,000 “negative and derogatory” comments about her on social media. Both Karlsson and Hoffman were traded in the off-season.
“Unfortunately, it’s another blemish on the organization but I like how the team has played so far this season,” says Carter. “I think their future is bright with [rookie forward Brady] Tkachuk, [defencemen] Chabot and [Maxime] Lajoie, [forward Jean-Gabriel] Pageau and [Craig] Anderson in net.”