When the coach of the area’s highest profile sports team dismisses one of the higher profiles athletes from that team, it’s news. Representatives of news organizations then have the responsibility to report the news as fully, accurately and fairly as possible.
However, should one side or the other, for reasons legal or altruistic, refrain from providing more detailed information, the interests and curiosity of readers, viewers, chat boarders, et al, are unlikely to be satisfied.
Such is the case of junior forward Justin Milo and his dismissal from the University of Vermont men’s hockey team by head coach Kevin Sneddon on Tuesday.
On one side, Sneddon said the decision was made in the best interests of the team. At Tuesday’s weekly news conference, Sneddon would not provide any more insight into his action beyond stating that the coaching staff, support staff and leadership had spent a lot of time considering the matter before acting.
On the other side, Milo expressed shock and said he was baffled by his removal. Essentially, he said he was told, he had been dismissed because of inconsistent effort, a lack of commitment to the program and a poor attitude.
One thing is undeniable: This was a severe action on Sneddon’s part. For him to make such a decision at this stage of a frustrating season, he had to believe it was necessary.
Whether Sneddon was right or wrong is another matter and it is impossible to form an opinion fairly without knowing all the details. Nor is it possible to know whether Milo truly doesn’t understand why he is no longer a Catamount.
One other thing is also undeniable: The situation has prompted extensive speculation.
Simply put, it’s difficult for many outside the team to accept that the reasons Milo said he was given for his dismissal are “the real story.” There has to be more to it, “they” say, and “they” might be right; logically, they probably are right.
Instead, alternative scenarios have been advanced in the Free Press’ online reader reaction and on college hockey Web sites, such as the USCHO.com fan forum. Some theories are speculation, pure and simple; others cite unnamed sources. Some fault the coach; some blame the player. None is a certainty.
Nobody wins in these situations; not the player, who no longer has a team; not the coach, whose reputation is on the line; not the team, which loses a talented player and faces possible internal strife; not the university, which is thrust into a negative spotlight; not even the public when rumors and innuendo might be far worse than the actual reasons.
For Milo, this was devastating, but it’s not the end of the world; it just seems it. He will still have his degree, his baseball and prospect of succeeding with the rest of life. For his sake, hopefully he will.
For the Catamounts, it’s a difficult experience, and only time will tell if they’ve been deeply wounded or if they can heal as a team. They already had enough challenges awaiting them.