Before the ‘pause,’ the sports world was consumed with the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal. So, when Los Angeles Kings’ head coach Todd McLellan said, “we’re not cheating a lot to win,” it raised a few eyebrows.
Just saying the word “cheat” gets attention, but during this hyper-sensitive time in the same city as the Dodgers, it raised alarm bells.
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LA’s professional teams are pretty tight. For example, the Kings’ have Dodgers night, where the players wear the Dodgers logo and color, a baseball player drops the puck… you get the picture. Those same Dodgers were robbed of a World Series title, by the cheating Houston Astros.
Another King that plays at the Staples Center was all over Major League Baseball for not punishing the Astros more for cheating. Lebron James took to Twitter to voice his displeasure.
And then McLellan says (or admits) during the live postgame interview on Fox Sports West that the Kings “we’re not cheating a lot to win.” No, say it ain’t so! The Kings don’t cheat, do they?
Yes, the Kings have cheated. Well, at least according to McLellan’s definition of cheating.
“What does ‘cheating’ mean?” asks McLellan to a group of reporters ”Cheating means you’re in a situation where it can go one way or the other – 50/50 – and you pick the easy side. You pick the offensive side, you don’t stay in the battle.”
Whew, we can all take a breath now. We don’t have another sports cheating scandal. But we do have some insight into McLellan and how he expects his players to act.
“Cheating also means you’re extending your shifts much too long, and you’re handing off a crappy situation off to your teammates. That type of stuff where the backcheck, you only work to the red line and then you buy a ticket and you watch the rest of it. That’s all cheating, and there’s a lot of different forms of it.”
Possibly the Worst Word in Sports
In sports, there is not a nastier, meaner or dirtier word than cheating or being called a cheater. But to McLellan, he uses this word to explain poor work ethic, lousy teamwork, and not being accountable. Most coaches, players and observers may refer to those things as “needs to work on this” or “lack responsibility in this area.” Not McLellan, in his eyes, if you take the easy way, get out of the battle, stay on too long or “buy a ticket at the red line”, you are guilty of cheating.
“Right now, we don’t have a lot of it in our game, from Line 1 all the way through, and it’s allowed us to be effective.”
The Kings were playing their best hockey of the season before the pause. They won seven straight, and they weren’t cheating according to the coach, “We’re winning the right way. It means we’re moving the needle forward.”
The Kings’ definition of cheating seems to mean breaking or dishonoring the Kings’ code. McLellan is essentially telling his players, “If you wear the silver and black and that LA shield on your chest, you are accountable to your teammates every time you step on the ice.”
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In fact, the way McLellan describes cheating and his expectation of play reminds me of this mantra:
I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission.
That’s the mantra of the US Navy Seals. It sounds like something McLellan expects from his Kings.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.