On Wednesday, we wrote about how Shannon Szabados had been released from the SPHL’s Peoria Rivermen after playing in just two games, in addition to teammates Storm Phaneuf and Carl Nielsen.
On Thursday, a little bit more information about why she was released came out.
The head coach of the Peoria Rivermen, who we were told had no more comments on the situation, spoke to Doug Harrison for CBC Sports and seemed to have several thoughts about why Szabados didn’t fit with the Rivermen.
Trudel said the Szabados-Nielsen deal is the "most different situation" he's been involved with in all his years coaching and 13 seasons playing mostly at the minor pro level.
"I'm paid to make sure my ownership is happy, that we win a lot of games, so I gotta do what I gotta do to make sure my team is in a good state of mind to win hockey games," said Trudel, who hails from Sudbury, Ont.
"The last two days of practice have been phenomenal. It feels like a lot of weight has been lifted off everybody's shoulders. It's back to being a team."
Trudel noticed a drastic change in team morale soon after Szabados and Nielsen came aboard, saying cliques began to form that turned a close-knit group into one that had become quiet and unproductive on the ice.
"They were always together and it became kind of weird," said Trudel of Szabados and Nielsen, a native of Lorain, Ohio. "Seeing the [other] players in the locker room, I just saw the situation being heavy on everyone. It was cancerous toward the team. I coach 18 players here so I need to make 18 players happy, not just two."
There’s a lot to unpack there.
Szabados and Nielsen apparently came to the Rivermen in a package deal, said Trudel, which is why they both left when Szabados was cut. The comments from Trudel aren’t just unprofessional; they’re an attempt to undermine Szabados’ (and Nielsen’s) credibility, two players he spoke highly of before this situation, on their way out the door.
This was also after Rivermen PR told The Ice Garden that Trudel had no further comments on the issue after the initial press release and article in the Peoria Journal Star announcing the releases.
Nothing was said about Storm Phaneuf, the other netminder who was also cut from Peoria.
Szabados spoke to the CBC after the story was initially published:
"The story's already out there and I don't want to fuel the fire," Szabados told CBC Sports on Thursday. "My focus is signing with a new team. There's a lot more to [the Peoria release] and misleading information but I don't want to put [Trudel] in a bad spot, or the team.
"I don't know why he said some of those things," Szabados said, noting she had a good player-coach relationship with Trudel. "It was a very strange situation."
Also, despite the prior assertion from Shannon Szabados’ agent that she was going to play in the Four Nations Tournament, Hockey Canada sent out a press release that Szabados would not be joining the roster (which had already been chosen before Szabados was released from Peoria).
There’s a lot that we could say about this situation, but frankly, it seems like it’s already been said. This situation was handled very poorly by the Rivermen and their head coach, making everything complicated for all parties involved. It’s reinforcing negative views of women in hockey, and especially women in men’s hockey, with Trudel’s comments centering around the idea that Szabados was only there because Nielsen was, that she was responsible for division in the locker room, and if she had just “worked harder”, maybe she wouldn’t have been cut two games into the season. It’s these kind of comments, not Szabados’ presence on Peoria’s team, that’s bad for hockey.
For now, Szabados will be looking for her next team to play at, whether that’s the SPHL or a different league entirely. But it seems safe to say that this isn’t the last we’ll see of her.