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TMZ and the Nashville Predators, that's an unfamiliar pairing, isn't it?
That's why, when last week I saw a TMZ headline reading "NHL's Mike Ribeiro Sued -- Allegedly Assaults Nanny ... Calls BS On Accuser", I not only read the piece but shared it on Twitter. After all, even as repulsive as many find TMZ, they do have a track record of breaking real news of this nature, such as in the Ray Rice situation last year.
The Predators responded to this story when it first broke, but we haven't really heard much about it since. At the time, they told John Glennon at the Tennessean:
"We have been made aware of a complaint against Mike Ribeiro, dating back to his playing time while he was in Dallas," the Predators said in a statement. "Mike has indicated that the charge is without merit and is prepared to vigorously defend himself. We will allow the legal process to move forward without further comment."
Over at The Other Half, guest writer Toni McIntyre argues that the NHL should suspend Ribeiro immediately. Given the all-too-common situation where victims of assault are ignored or intimidated into silence, she implies that guilt should be presumed and that the Predators willingly brought damaged goods into the organization in order to win:
To be honest, it makes me feel ill—but I think Nashville took the lawsuit and Ribeiro’s alleged behavior, measured that against a team with a new coach and new offensive priorities, and they like so many others prioritized game winning and a championship over social responsibility.
For me, this situation does call David Poile's decision-making process into question. The team's statement to Glennon seems to indicate that they didn't know about this situation when they signed Ribeiro in the summer, although it's important to remember that the lawsuit wasn't filed until after he signed with Nashville. And it's not like the Preds didn't do some checking before making the call.
Poile said the Predators did their due diligence on Ribeiro. He said they talked to former teammates, coaches, general managers and more people inside and outside Ribeiro's circle, including Predators forward James Neal, who played with Ribeiro in Dallas from 2008-11.
"It's well known that Ribeiro had some off-ice situations that he had to take care of. He has done that," Poile said. "He and his family were separated and now they're back together. He and his wife [Tammy] and three kids [Mikael, Noah and Viktoria] are trying to make a new life, want to make a new life for themselves here in Nashville."
..."We can't have a distraction on our team. We can't have something that's affecting our franchise," Poile said. "Mike and his wife realize that. There is no tolerance for off-ice issues. This clearly is really his last chance."
McIntyre's charge that Poile "prioritized game winning and a championship over social responsibility" rings false to anyone with even a passing familiarity with his career. If anything, the charge to be made against him is that at times he placed too much value on "character" as opposed to bringing in the best hockey players available. Just recall the franchise implosion over a curfew violation during the 2012 playoffs, or how the team has given big raises and long-term contracts to players with far better reputations in the locker room than their on-ice performance warrants, such as Matt Hendricks or Eric Nystrom.
Poile simply isn't the type of GM to compromise his morals in the interest of winning. His track record speaks to exactly the opposite, frankly.
So does an allegation of an incident three years ago rise to the level of warranting a suspension? In my mind, not yet, not without solid evidence, and that's where the legal process plays a role. You don't have to believe Ribeiro is innocent in this case to decline taking action at the present time; frankly, we don't know one way or the other.
But this situation bears close watching; certainly it shouldn't be swept under the rug, as in
this piece running at NHL.com today (Ed. note: Linked piece was published in 2013.) touting "the new Mike Ribeiro", which doesn't even make the slightest reference to the open lawsuit facing him.
If convincing evidence does come forward of Ribeiro's guilt, it would not only force the league's hand in a way that could derail Nashville's most promising campaign, but it would leave a black mark on David Poile's long, well-respected career. We need to wait for such evidence, however, before judging & passing sentence on the player.