November 09, 2013
The Vancouver Giants have usually enjoyed a fairly clean-as-a-bean image; to understate for effect, this takes away a little of that positive sheen.
Reports on Saturday note that two of the Western Hockey League club's most prominent contributors each have assault charges before the court in British Columbia. Leading scorer Brett Kulak, a Calgary Flames-drafted defenceman, and Edmonton Oilers-drafted wing Jackson Houck both got into trouble during an altercation at a Delta, B.C., house party in August, before the season. The two "weren’t there representing themselves as Giants," but their high profile as NHL draft picks makes it newsworthy.
Vancouver news station CKNW reports the two players are "charged with assault causing bodily harm ... Kulak ... faces a second charge of uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm."
The charges were laid last month after a police investigation. The players will get due process within the legal system. As for the court of public opinion, one could frown upon Houck and Kulak ending up in a potentially combustible social situation. Or one might take a pragmatic, probability-based stance that young people often end up in court over matters that can involve emotional and physical aggression, then learn the hard way that it's unacceptable before becoming relatively well-adjusted adults. In short, it happens.
The Giants are not in a place to offer comment on it. Giants owner Ron Toigo issued a statement Saturday that bears repeating in its entirety, if only to be sporting:
What we can say is that our players are held to a higher standard and, for the most part, live up to that.
This is the first instance that we have had a player have to go to court and that is unfortunate.
Both Jackson and Brett have been, and are, exceptional people.
They have been good students, and have put in many hours of community service hours through school visits and the Read to Succeed program, Odd Squad with Chris Graham of the Vancouver Police, and hospital visits with the Giants' Christmas program.
Both these players have been, and are, very good citizens and have been good members of our community.
It is unfortunate that one negative incident gets the attention instead of all the good things that have been done.
They are both prepared to deal with whatever the court decides.
Please appreciate and understand that the players and anyone from the Vancouver Giants organization cannot comment on any of these legal matters.
There's not really any question about whether either player will be kept out of the lineup will awaiting the outcome of his case. For example, Windsor Spitfires wing Ben Johnson, a New Jersey Devils draftee, is currently playing while facing sex assault charges in connection with an incident that occurred while he was out in public with other Spitfires. That was not an official team function, mind you, but could be classified as them "representing themselves as" Spitfires, to borrow the police jargon. I am only mentioning that to illustrate the SOP when players are facing charges; it's not meant to dredge up an uncomfortable situation for all concerned.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.