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  • Writer's pictureUnofficial Bighorns Blog

A diatribe, for your entertainment: A friendly rebuttal to Stephen Heisler

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

I was recently introduced to the poignant article written by Stephen Heisler about the Bighorns a few weeks ago. After reading his article and watching his podcast, I had some thoughts.

Firstly, I agree with the premise of his article: players injured because of blatantly dangerous or criminal on-ice behavior is totally wrong and there should be punishment for those that commit assault or other crimes on the ice. Players and their families should absolutely seek legal advice and take action if they deem it necessary, and I appreciate that Stephen went through the trouble to find a legal firm that could help them. There is more than enough room in the American legal system for lawsuits to be made when crimes have been committed and can be proven.

As for the rest of what he had to say, I refuse to participate in the "he said", "they said", "I could pull video evidence if I wanted to" types of argument that fills the rest of his article and podcast. But when I hear blatant lies thinly masqueraded as opinions by other sports commentators, I feel it's necessary to state the truth as I know it.

Stephen somewhat articulately stated his opinion that the Bighorns officials are running a "gongshow" (for those unaware of the antiquated term, it's originally based on a 1970s absurdist TV show and was adopted as a word to describe an event with little or no control run by people who don't know what they're doing) and that the coaches are encouraging this bad behavior, and have been for some time now. Stephen then says that he "could easily present video evidence" to prove his point, but doesn't do so in his article nor in his podcast. I also watched and recapped the games he mentions, but I suppose I was not under a heavy influence of confirmation bias when I watched them. Additionally, I wasn't able to find any more of his opinions on this matter in his other articles since everything but the first few sentences of his content is behind a paywall and I'm just not convinced I want to support his blog monetarily.

He then suggests that previous head coach Scott Cunningham is absent due to a SafeSport investigation, but if he were to actually look at the facts (a quick search at the SafeSport website shows no previous allegations or current action being taken against Scott Cunningham or any Bighorns players or officials), he would know that Cunningham stepped back from being head coach of his own accord and that no such investigation exists, nor ever existed. He may claim that it was "just rumors" and he wasn't stating it as fact but was instead simply perpetuating baseless accusations, but don't be fooled, dear reader. You and I know from many years of being content consumers that this is a tactic by journalists and other slimy content creators to get clicks and comments from angry readers to boost their rankings in search engine results. And it certainly works, which is why Stephen and every other clickbait journalist are employing it. (I will admit I am perpetuating this tactic, but alas, there is always some collateral damage when fighting against it.)

He then turns on Bighorns fans, accusing them of being attracted to the arena just to watch the fights thus encouraging officials to ignore or encourage such bad behavior in order to increase beer sales. As a Bighorns fan myself, as I have been for several years now, I took particlar offense to this insinuation. After genuinely inspecting my own motivations (you should try it sometime, Stephen), I realized that the fighting is not what made me a raving Bighorns fan. Unlike basketball or football where the players are running on a perfectly manicured, flat lawn throwing balls to each other (something I can do, albeit not nearly as well or as fast), watching these boys skate around so effortlessly on such an unpredictable surface as ice fascinated me. Add to that the intensity with which they play the game (you'll find similar intensity in crew races, another of my favorite sports), plus the amazing fans and fun that happens in the stands and I was hooked. And when they do fight or get injured, I cringe and wait uneasily until every player is back on his feet and safe, no matter which team he plays for. So is it the fights that brings thousands upon thousands of fans to watch Bighorns games every year? For me, the answer is a most definite "no".

He ends his diatribe with the threat, nay, assurance that he and his 9,000 fans will monitor future Bighorns games like "stink on dog doo doo" (his words, not mine) and I venture to agree with him again. Something about his "opinions" definitely stinks. FSH.

All that being said, I don't want to end my article on a negative note, by calling on Stephen to feel ashamed of his baseless, false accusations and perpatuation of stupid rumors, or insinuating that a third party should arbitrarily be liable for someone else's crime despite the fact that we are reponsible for our own actions and all equally beholden to our local law enforcement and NAHL governing policies, but I digress. I instead would like to end on a positive note and invite you, my readers and fellow hockey fans, to get involved and to help where help is needed. If you would like to help hockey players in crisis, please reach out to your local team and ask how you can help. Volunteer to be a billet family to give the boys a safe place to land during the season. If you're at a game and you see behavior that is unnacceptable or illegal, please reach out to the NAHL or local law enforcement with your concerns, rather than airing your opinions out in the court of public opinion where nothing real will happen. Or, you can support one of the many hockey charities teaching kids good sportsmanship (such as HEROS, which uses hockey to empower marginalized youth) that will help promote a clean and safe hockey culture for players and fans for many future generations.

Thank you, as always, to the amazing community of Bighorns fans and the big hockey family at large that I am so honored to be part of. Stay awesome.

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