Canadian women’s gold medal celebration scandalous? I don’t think so.

I knew when I saw the first article about Team Canada’s women’s hockey celebration that it was a great topic for my hockey public relations blog. I know this post is long overdue (seeing as the game was on Feb. 25), but I hope you’ll accept that I’ve been a little too caught up in the Olympics to analyze the PR side of the Games.

The Canadian women's team reacts to its win over Team USA. Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY.

The Canadian women's team reacts to its win over Team USA. Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I’m not sure why you’re reading this blog, but I’ll still give you a quick recap of what went down. Team Canada beat Team USA in the women’s hockey gold medal game. Following the medal presentation, the team went back to its locker room. About half an hour later, after the fans had left the building, the players returned to the ice to skate around and live in the their golden moment. The story goes that the man working the ice resurfacer asked some of the players for a picture. Cameras started going off, and members of the media who were hanging around took notice.

Canada's Haley Irwin and Tessa Bonhomme drink to their gold medals. Photo by Chris O'Meara/AP Photo.

Canada's Haley Irwin and Tessa Bonhomme drink to their gold medals. Photo by Chris O'Meara/AP Photo.

Not only were the players skating around the ice and generally goofing off, but they were doing so with beer, champagne and cigars. Elements that many people would include in their celebrations after winning the highest honor in their sport.

Now that I have the time to look back on everything that happened, I have a few things to say about the “scandalous” revelry that the Canadian women took part in.

Does anyone even care?
I think that the media blew the whole situation out of proportion. Initial reports of what happened were negative, but since then I haven’t found anything that scolds the players or condemns Team Canada. The general feeling I’ve taken away from the stories I’ve read is that no one was bothered by what spilled out of the locker room and onto the ice.

And why should anyone be bothered? The Canadian team had just won a gold medal. If I won a gold medal, I would sure hope that no one would shake their finger at me for having some champagne afterward. I bet the last thing on any of the players’ minds was the potential for photos to be leaked. I guess that’s a lesson that we all should have learned by now. In today’s world, whatever you do can be caught on camera, and if you’re a famous athlete, it probably will be caught on camera.

Members of Team Canada bring the party to the ice. Photo by Reuters.

Members of Team Canada bring the party to the ice. Photo by Reuters.

Don’t place blame too quickly
Another lesson to be learned from this situation is that responding immediately isn’t always the best idea in crisis communications. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) clearly saw the “debauchery” on ice as a crisis and sent out a message that they would “investigate.” IOC officials said that they did not approve of what had happened, and it wasn’t a good representation of the Olympic Games. That statement was quickly followed by a public apology from Hockey Canada, the organization behind the Canadian Olympic team.

Personally, I think everything would have blown over just as quickly without an apology. The apology just made it sound as though the team had something to be ashamed of. The only sticking point is that one member of the team was underage in British Columbia. However, she is of legal drinking age in her home province. No one seemed to stuck on that issue, though.

Let them enjoy the moment
My final thought about the on-ice party is that it’s a shame something so trivial took center stage over the glory of the gold. If I was the public relations person for the team, of course I would have tried to keep the party in the locker room. But if my players just wanted to get back out on the ice that was home to the biggest moment of their lives, I wouldn’t care if they took their Molson’s with them.

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