Sports

Habs owner apologizes, supports Mailloux pick

Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson apologized to “everyone impacted by our decision” while backing his team’s selection of defenseman Logan Mailloux in the first round of last weekend’s NHL draft.

“We gave Logan a second chance, but in doing so we failed to properly assess the impact of our decision on the victim and on anyone who have suffered in similar circumstances. Once again, I want to apologize to everyone impacted by our decision,” Molson said in a letter posted to the Canadiens’ website Wednesday. “I repeat, our actions will speak louder than our words. We will work to continue proving we are an organization this community and our fans can be proud of.”

Mailloux, 18, had “renounced” himself from the draft after multiple news reports covered an incident in Sweden in which he showed teammates a photo that depicted him and a woman engaged in a consensual sexual act. The photo was taken without the consent of the woman, who went to local police. Mailloux was fined but not arrested for invasion of privacy and defamation.

While sources indicated to ESPN that multiple NHL teams were considering taking him on the second day of the draft, Montreal selected him 30th in the first round. The next day, Mailloux said he accepted the Canadiens having drafted him and thought the team could help with his “betterment” as a person.

The decision sparked immediate backlash from fans and media, and eventually led to a handful of sponsors questioning their commitments to the franchise for next season. On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “as a lifelong Habs fan, I am deeply disappointed by the decision” and that the team has “a lot of explaining to do to Montrealers and fans right across the country.”

Molson, who released his letter at the start of the NHL’s free-agent period Wednesday afternoon, specifically addressed the woman.

“I want to say that we do not minimize what she has had to, and continues to have to, live through. No one, especially not an 18-year-old, should have to suffer through a traumatic experience like this. We are there to support her and her family and respect their privacy,” he said. “Our selection of Logan was never intended to be disrespectful towards her or her family, or more generally towards women or other victims of similar situations. Our decision was not intended, in any shape or form, to be an endorsement of the culture of violence against women.”

Molson said that Mailloux is “a young man who committed a serious transgression” but one who is “genuinely remorseful about the pain he has caused” and “committed to becoming a better person and we will work with him through this process.”

The letter spelled out how the Canadiens are preparing to handle Mailloux as a prospect. He will not participate in the Canadiens’ rookie development camp or training camp.

“Being a player in the NHL is a privilege that is earned — not a right that is granted. As the year progresses, we will reassess Logan’s readiness to be part of our organization,” he said.

In addition, the team will develop a plan to raise awareness and educate young men and young women about “this serious issue,” using the team’s resources to “turn a decision that hurt many people into one that brings meaningful and impactful change.”

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