'I'm not mad': Winnipeg woman responds to offensive comments made by some NHL players in leaked chat
Published Thursday, May 7, 2020 6:01AM CST Last Updated Thursday, May 7, 2020 1:06PM CST
WINNIPEG -- A group of men, including some Winnipeg hockey players, has come under fire for highly inappropriate and offensive comments towards women and teammates. This comes after their private conversation on social media ended up in the public eye.
The remarks have been widely condemned and prompted one of the women mentioned to speak out.
“Obviously they’re very apologetic, but I’d rather focus on the women and how we were affected,” said Nicole Zajac, 22, who was one of the people mentioned in the private conversation.
Zajac, a Winnipegger, took to Instagram after the comments made about her surfaced online. The comments were made by the men in a private group chat that someone made public. Conversations in which Zajac was called “fat” and “a piggy.”
She said some of the men, who she knows personally, have since apologized to her.
“I’m not mad,” the social media influencer and part-time server said in an interview. “I think this is a great time for the men involved to take some time to self-reflect and really think about what they’ve done.”
CTV news obtained several screenshots which appear to show the conversation in question. The discussion which took place over several months, ranged from rude remarks about women and their appearances and weight to sexual references and comments about drug use.
The misogynistic and mean comments drew immediate criticism and outrage online and in the hockey world.
One of the men involved — Winnipeg-born Brendan Leipsic, a forward with the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals – issued an apology Wednesday night on his Twitter account.
“Yesterday my friend’s Instagram account was hacked and an individual circulated images that are representative of private conversations I was part of,” Leipsic tweeted. “I fully recognize how inappropriate and offensive these comments are and sincerely apologize to everyone for my actions."
“I am committed to learning from this and becoming a better person by taking time to determine how to move forward in an accountable, meaningful way.”
In a statement released Wednesday, the Capitals said the team’s aware of “the unacceptable and offensive comments made by Brendan Leipsic in a private conversation on social media.”
The team said the matter will be handled internally.
The NHL is also involved.
“The National Hockey League strongly condemns the misogynistic and reprehensible remarks made by players Brendan Leipsic and Jack Rodewald in a private group chat that has surfaced on social media,” the league said in a statement. “There is no place in our League for such statements, attitudes and behavior, no matter the forum. We will address this inexcusable conduct with the clubs and players involved.”
It’s not only the NHL. The University of Manitoba confirmed its released Leipsic’s younger brother Jeremey from its men’s hockey team because of the chat.
“Bison Sports was extremely disappointed to learn of the comments made by the group of prominent hockey players, including one of our own, who were involved in the private group chat that has emerged online,” said Gene Muller, the university’s director of athletics and recreation. “We condemn any such remarks and attitudes as they are offensive, reprehensible and have absolutely no place in sport or in our programs.
The University of Dakota confirmed it’s also investigating involvement of one its men’s hockey team players.
Jess Hunichen, who co-founded Shine Influencers, a talent management agency that works with social media influencers such as Zajac, isn’t surprised by the remarks.*
“Unfortunately, we’re in a place where it’s not that shocking which is I think a narrative that we need to reverse,” said Hunicen.
She said clients who post photos in the body positivity space often find themselves the target of rude remarks.
“With social now, people have gotten very brazen with what they’ll say directly to someone, as well,” said Hunicen. “Yes, there are lot of conversations that happen privately behind the scenes, of course things like that get leaked from time to time. But people are very forthcoming when telling people what they don’t like about them when I say ‘to their face’ with a screen in between them.
“That’s something that we deal with a lot.”
Zajac responded by sharing the negative comments on her own Instagram account, replacing the words in a separate post to reflect how she feels about herself.
“Uplifting what they took and said about us and switching it into a more positive narrative,” Zajac explained. “I also think it’s a great opportunity to show the world what can be said behind the scenes and that it is super important for us make sure that we’re always being kind and not talking terribly about others.”