Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy, 32, has been around the NHL for parts of eight seasons and played major college and minor-league hockey before that. During that span he has seen a dramatic evolution in at least one area.
After Andrew Shaw of the Blackhawks was suspended for one playoff game because of an anti-gay slur he uttered in the penalty box Tuesday against the Blues, Lovejoy took Shaw’s behavior as an anomaly in the modern NHL.
Not long ago, it would have been the norm.
“I think people are becoming much more educated about derogatory terms and if something like that is said guys aren’t comfortable with that anymore,” he said after the morning skate in advance of Game 4 of Penguins-Rangers. “I think we have come a long way and have even more space to improve.”
But is it a result of a genuine change in hockey culture or a matter of protecting oneself from potential trouble and public shaming?
“It’s absolutely both, but guys are becoming more educated,” Lovejoy said. “I think that a lot of people five, 10 years ago didn’t realize how hateful that term is, and I think it has pretty much been eradicated from our locker room.
“I remember a time when it was commonplace and I think that guys are becoming more educated. You can’t use that term, and I think that we are making strides ... I think that we are growing smarter as a league.”