August 27, 2008
Most of us played organized sports at some level. We're aware of the camaraderie and peer pressure that goes along with being part of a team.
In some situations, we're also aware that with peer pressure comes the traditional hazing rituals. They could be as simple as carrying a pink backpack to the bullpen or standing up and singing your alma mater's fight song in front of teammates.
They could, however, be demeaning, embarrassing, and shady. Take the case of newly signed Akim Aliu of the Chicago Blackhawks. When he was a 16-year-old junior player for the Windsor Spitfires for the Ontario Hockey League, Aliu was in the middle of a hazing scandal. He was pressured by older teammates to squeeze himself into a bus bathroom with several other players. The catch? He had to be stripped naked.
Aliu denied the request, while other players went along with the prank and thereby became a lone soldier on the Spitfires.
"If I don't want to do something, I don't want to do it. And I said I wouldn't do it. I knew I wasn't going in there."
The tension festered and weeks later during practice, Windsor captain and now Philadelphia Flyers Steve Downie skated up to Aliu and cross-checked him in the mouth. He would leave to the dressing room only to return and fight Downie during practice, which was captured on video and opened a can of worms that brought the hazing situation to light.
Downie was suspended five games and ordered to undergo anger management; he would later quit the Spitfires and demand a trade.
Now that both have moved up the professional levels of hockey, there's the chance that these two could meet up again, whether in the American Hockey League (Rockford and Philadelphia do not play during the regular-season) or the NHL (the Flyers visit Chicago on Dec. 26).
Are the emotions of three years ago are still there for Aliu? We know Downie plays on the edge; just ask Dean McAmmond. Hockey players don't forget, and you can be sure there will be some eyes glued to Aliu and Downie if they happen to be up with the big comes come Dec. 26.