Profiles

Maine hockey in 15th year as a key cog for MAAV

Maine hockey in Year 15 as a key cog for Male Athletes Against Violence Maine MAAV Chase Pearson
Second-year co-captain Chase Pearson on his time representing men's hockey in MAAV: “The responses we got were awesome. Everybody was so supportive and really appreciative of the fact that we were out there supporting a cause that is swept under the rug a lot of times.” (Photo by Buehner)

For members of the University of Maine’s Male Athletes Against Violence (MAAV) initiative, numbers stick like preseason statistics. That is if the experience of its two most recent hockey ambassadors is any indication.

“I can’t remember many specifics,” junior Chase Pearson told Pucks and Recreation. “But I know they shocked me enough to really get interested in the class.”

And so, every week last fall, Pearson, along with classmate Mitchell Fossier, joined a smattering of Black Bears from the other six men’s athletic programs. Together they constituted the 14th iteration of a unique domestic violence awareness class.

Dr. Sandra L. Caron, who teaches family relations and human sexuality, established MAAV for the 2004-05 academic year. The club’s mission statement reads, in part, “Violence is a way of asserting power, privilege, and control. Men perpetrate the majority of violence, and yet this issue is usually framed as a ‘woman’s issue.’ Change will come when we challenge the social norms and institutions that actively or implicitly condone and promote violence. MAAV is an effort to involve men so that we can begin to understand that violence is very much a ‘man’s issue.’”

One product of MAAV’s first go-round, James Henry, soon penned a six-line poem on the matter. Of those lines, the lede stands out for Pearson. Scripting everything in lowercase, Henry begins by stressing, “female abuse on a scale can’t be measured.”

For Pearson, that “shows that we have a problem in our society that is greater than we know. Abuse occurs daily, and we cannot stop it every time. But we can inform people, and the more informed people are about the issue, the more chance it can be put to a stop.”

The fifth line, “mutual respect is rich like a blank check,” proposes the remedy. That message resonates the most with Fossier, who will wear an “A” on the ice in this season.

“I think too many people walk around without a sense of respect for others, as well as themselves,” Fossier told Pucks and Rec. “A very large root of this issue is a lack of respect. The poem is a great depiction of this.”

Despite Henry’s first statement on not quantifying the problem, data will continue to flow in. Last week, The Nation’s Miguel Salazar submitted a study of domestic violence pervading Latin American soccer communities.

The article’s subheading articulated one statistical finding. “In Colombia, cases of intimate-partner violence against women rose by 33 percent during the past two World Cups.” In between those FIFA festivals, one of the nation’s stars faced domestic battery charges in Miami Beach, only to return to the pitch within a year.

Similar patterns have plagued the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA alike. The reason for such uncomfortable publicity is nothing new, but certainly more prominent on the 2010s media landscape.

That system has captured and covered incidents much closer to Pearson and Fossier’s current circle. MAAV was half its current age when the Black Bears became a footnote in an on-ice rival’s dark weekend.

On Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011, Alfond Arena entertained a Hockey East tilt with Boston University. Maine fell flat in a 5-1 final, with Terrier senior Corey Trivino’s two goals fetching him first-star status.

With that, Trivino, then a New York Islanders prospect and BU’s scoring leader, extended his production streak to four games entering the holiday break.

Barely 24 hours after that game, back on his own campus, Trivino took his dive into infamy. On that night, a female student told police Trivino had forcefully entered her dorm room and made unwanted physical advances.

As it happened, two months prior, Trivino had been featured in a long-form BU Daily Free Press feature. Besides highlighting prior troubles, the piece naturally focused on his hockey potential. It ran under the headline “Trivino Suave,” and noted his expressed commitment to “improving his behavior off the ice.”

His violent indiscretion later that fall was his final strike. Trivino was promptly dismissed from the team on the grounds of intoxication. Eight months later, he pleaded guilty to assault and battery.

In between, BU stepped up its soul-searching after another player, Max Nicastro, faced charges from an incident following a February 2012 game.

Maine hockey in Year 15 as a key cog for Male Athletes Against Violence Maine MAAV Mitchell Fossier

“I think athletes often have somewhat of a spotlight in college, both in positive and negative aspects. Because a lot of eyes are on collegiate athletes, though, it gives a good stage to raise awareness.” – Mitchell Fossier (Photo by Tutuny)

In the six years since underdoing a rigorous task-force investigation, the Terriers have had no further eruptions. But putting two and two — or Saturday and Sunday — of those weekends together presented athletic empowerment at its worst. The internal task force pointed to “a culture of sexual entitlement…stemming in part from their elevated social status on campus.”

Before and since, BU’s clean-record leaders have taken steps, sometimes opposite their three Beanpot rivals, to craft the opposite image. Likewise, MAAV’s hockey torch-bearers want to keep their culture’s impression wholesome.

“I think athletes often have somewhat of a spotlight in college, both in positive and negative aspects,” said Fossier. “Because a lot of eyes are on collegiate athletes, though, it gives a good stage to raise awareness and get some traction for an issue like this.”

At the time of MAAV’s inception, Black Bear hockey was at or near its peak in popularity. Maine was coming off its fourth Frozen Four and third national championship game appearance in six years. It was also defending its second Hockey East tournament title in five seasons.

The program has struggled in the win column for most of the past decade, reducing its exposure on ESPN and the New England Sports Network. Even so, its legacy keeps it a magnet for publicity. In turn, it remains a key cog for MAAV.

“We strive to have members of all sports teams,” Caron told Pucks and Rec. “And of course having our high-profile hockey team as part of the program has always been important.”

Pearson, for one, is not oblivious to the hook that renown lends him and fellow puck ambassadors to MAAV. Last year he and Fossier spearheaded a slew of initiatives tailored to students at each educational bookend. They would read Hands Are Not for Hitting to local kindergartners and present and lead a workshop titled Reel Men vs. Real Men to their fellow collegians.

“We strive to have members of all sports teams. And of course having our high-profile hockey team as part of the program has always been important.” – Dr. Sandra Caron, founder of Male Athletes Against Violence

“I think it is important for us to be the ones who take a stand because we have recognition on campus,” said the Black Bears co-captain and Detroit Red Wings prospect. “People will listen regardless of if they know us personally because maybe they support the hockey program or the football program as a whole.”

During at least one game per year, Alfond Arena sets up an awareness table as part of White Ribbon Week. The observance is an extension of the global White Ribbon Campaign, which originated in Toronto in 1991 under the same essential pretense as MAAV.

As the faces of the allied programs, Pearson and Fossier took charge of organizing that last fall. When they were not engaged in a concomitant game, they put their own faces behind tables at the Memorial Union building, the three-story hub of Maine student life.

As Caron noted, they literally sweetened the deal with treats for good measure. For added hockey flavor, their shifts might also entail distributing MAAV-logo foam pucks.

From present to prospective members, word of mouth keeps the MAAV torch passing along. One prominent puckster early this decade was Will O’Neill, now a seventh-year pro who made his NHL debut last season. Conor Riley, who wore an “A” as a senior when Pearson was a freshman, is now a staple with the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder.

Filling Pearson and Fossier’s skates this fall are sophomores Alexis Binner and Kevin Hock. With Binner, a blueliner from Stocksund, Sweden, MAAV will have intercontinental representation.

Currently coordinated by Jean Point-Dujour, a football player turned academic counselor, the group meets Monday evenings at the Memorial Union. As Point-Dujour indicated last winter on the Maine Black Bears YouTube channel, the conferences stress inclusive game-planning. Each member is invited to raise and weigh in on what needs attention.

At times, though, tabling alone is enough to reel in overwhelming awareness from the broader community.

“The responses we got were awesome,” Pearson said of his stint with MAAV. “Everybody was so supportive and really appreciative of the fact that we were out there supporting a cause that is swept under the rug a lot of times.”

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Al Daniel

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