Tony DeAngelo and Toxic Hockey Culture

For years, hockey has been a place of exclusivity and toxicity. There have been countless accounts of racism, homophobia, and misogyny from athletes who’ve experienced it at a variety of levels. The only way to fix this culture is to educate and make firm stances that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated. The NHL has tried to stress that “hockey is for everyone” but there have been players in the league who simply don’t believe this and have not been punished for their actions that make the statement untrue.

We as a community need to discuss the issue of giving white hockey players and athletes numerous chances regardless of their actions. Tony DeAngelo might be an exaggerated example of this but it happened over an extended period of time with too many people letting it go on.

Incase you missed what turned out to be the breaking point for DeAngelo, here’s what happened:

This past Saturday night, the New York Rangers took on the Pittsburgh Penguins. In overtime, DeAngelo and Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev had a miscommunication behind the net. Seconds later, the puck ends up on Sidney Crosby’s stick and then in the back of the Rangers’ net. DeAngelo was standing in front of Georgiev, screening him, on the play. After leaving the ice, DeAngelo and Georgiev got into a fight in the tunnel heading to the dressing room. He said some choice words to Georgiev, blaming him and Georgiev punched him. Many reports say teammates had to break up the fight. DeAngelo was placed on waivers the following day.

To understand who Tony DeAngelo is and the major issues surrounding him, it’s best to start at the beginning of his time in the public eye.

Tony DeAngelo had been nothing but a problem since he first appeared on the hockey radar. His documented issues start while playing junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. The New Jersey-born, defenceman came over from the United States to the OHL to join the Sarnia Sting. In his NHL Draft year, DeAngelo was given a team issued suspension by Sting Head Coach, Trevor Letowski, for violating the league’s, harassment, abuse and diversity policy after he directed a slur at a teammate. The minimum for breaking the policy is a five game suspension, DeAngelo got eight, showing the severity of the incident. It was confirmed by the Sting that this was his second offence of the policy but he wasn’t suspended the first time. There have been allegations relating to numerous other incidents during his time in Sarina which he was never punished for.

There was a video made in June 2014 about his redemption arc and looking towards the NHL Draft. It highlighted his skill and abilities on the ice but also discussed his off ice issues and behaviour. In the video, his father, Lou DeAngelo, was interviewed. He stated, “in the situation where he got suspended, I would have got suspended too”. He went on to say he says those things “everyday” and mentioned that this is how he was raised. This shows the environment in which Tony grew up in, which while it doesn’t excuse his behaviour by any stretch, it certainly explains why it’s so deeply engrained.

Even after all of this, he was drafted 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. This was later than expected but still very high. The Tampa Bay Lightning gave him a chance but were obviously expecting a change in his behaviour.

Unfortunately for all involved, a change did not come. In November 2014, DeAngelo verbally challenged an official, post game. He took a costly penalty near the end of the game and was angry. Accounts say he went down hall by the dressing rooms and screamed at the official. He was once again suspended. Weeks later, he represented Team USA at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championships, yet again, being rewarded for poor behaviour. He was then traded to Sault Ste Marie to end off his junior career. He played the remainder of his final season there before moving to the AHL.

DeAngelo played the 2015-16 season with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch and did well on the stat sheet. He had 43 points in 69 games which are great numbers for a rookie defenceman, however, he was a healthy scratch 8 times for documented attitude issues. He was then traded to Arizona in a deal obviously rushed in order to get rid of him. He spent time with the Coyotes as well as their AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners. During that season, DeAngelo was suspended three games in the NHL for abuse of an official. He put his hands on the official and screamed obscenities at him while he tried to break a scrum up.

He was then traded to the Rangers where he became active on Twitter. He has been known to tweet, retweet and like very controversial and hateful things including, racist and homophobic beliefs, talking negatively about immigrants and implying that COVID-19 was a hoax. He expressed his support for Donald Trump and claimed the 2020 U.S. election was rigged as well as frequently engaged in “Twitter wars” with anyone who opposed his views.

It is important to note that while his Twitter became more prevalent while playing for the Rangers, his disgusting tweets started even before his junior hockey days. He also started a podcast called “Watch Your Tone” to give himself another platform to express his thoughts. The New York Rangers even promoted the podcast as they retweeted details regarding it, even after his teammate, Brendan Lemieux tweeted the podcast would push “politically correct” boundaries.

The New York Rangers GM, Jeff Gorton said in a press conference on Monday night that Tony DeAngelo has played his last game as Ranger but after all that has come out, it seems like this move should have been made long ago. It speaks volumes when a team has to call a full press conference with the President, Coach and GM, just to announce the waiving of a low end defenceman. While few things about his behaviour inside the Rangers dressing room have been confirmed, rumours regarding his treatment of other players have been swirling. There have also been comments regarding the culture in New York and how it affects the team. Hopefully with the deletion of DeAngelo, the atmosphere in New York will begin to be repaired.

With all of the documented issues regarding Tony DeAngelo over such a long period of time, and his apparent need to constantly cross the line, how did he make it this far? How did he play multiple seasons in the NHL? How did the New York Rangers allow his online presence to get so far out of control? These are all questions many are asking.

In any other workplace environment, this negative representation of the company and the long trend of despicable behaviour would have never been tolerated. DeAngelo was directly representing the Rangers organization every single time he posted something online or acted out. He made it quite clear that he didn’t plan to make a change, regardless of the punishment because his chances were endless. His removal from the team had to be the next step. DeAngelo got away with awful and unacceptable behaviour starting at a young age and although he served suspensions and received punishment over the years, he was never truly held accountable.

Hopefully, this is a wake up call to the NHL and even wider, regarding the damage a single player can do to an organization and the culture of the team. DeAngelo is probably not the only player who acts this way in the NHL but he seems to have been the most vocal. If there is really progress being made, this will be the absolute last we see of DeAngelo in hockey and no team will make an attempt to acquire him. This should show the NHL there is still a long way to go in terms of equality in the hockey community and the culture of the sport as a whole. The only way hockey will truly be for everyone is to hold people accountable for their behaviour and make change so everyone can feel safe and respected in the sport.

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