The past couple of weeks has offered us examples of some of the systemic issues facing junior hockey, with one junior player convicted of sexual assault and another charged with the same.
The culture of junior hockey is unquestionably flawed.
Parents, agents, coaches, organizations and players themselves need to share the blame for that.
The fact the Ontario Hockey League needs to come out with a policy/program teaching players how to appropriately deal with women speaks volumes. You need a program to teach you how to be respectful?
Hockey culture, macho culture and, some would argue, rape culture, exist in junior hockey. You would be blind to argue otherwise.
But players like Guelph Storm defenceman Garrett McFadden are showing us that there is also a mature, thoughtful, caring side to junior hockey. Players willing to go the extra mile to give back to the communities that embrace them.
It doesn't excuse or erase the blemishes in the game, but it shows that there are players willing to be part of the change.
McFadden has started McFadden's Movement, a mental health initiative that will see him speak to young athletes to help them understand and deal with some of the pressures they face as their competitive world advances.
If asked, he will speak to individuals, not just teams.
It speaks to McFadden's character, but also his understanding that at the end of the day it is players that must make the decisions to give back and to help change the negative perception many, particularly those outside the sport, have of junior hockey.
McFadden is not the first player to go this extra mile. Many have in other communities. But those efforts, while being appreciated and recognized locally, usually don't hit the broader consciousness like the bad news stories do.
That's unfortunate. Players like McFadden are not only trying to make their communities, and the world, a slightly better place, but perhaps even without intending too they are also helping change the culture of junior hockey and the perception of junior hockey players.
You don't change any culture overnight or with one good deed.
It takes an attitude change, a perception and willingness from within to be different. To act different. It takes time and consistently.
Players like McFadden have that willingness. He has made that choice.
Hopefully others will follow his example.