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Wings join anti-bullying campaign

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are taking a stand against bullies, joining forces with the Defeat the Label Foundation campaign.
DETROIT Kyle Quincey was a 16-year-old high school junior when he witnessed something so heinous that he still has vivid recollection of the injustice, which played out in front of him.

It was the morning when the world changed forever.

Minutes after the second airplane had smashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center a decade ago, Quincey, then a new student at King City High School in Ontario, watched as a pack of students brutally beat a fellow classmate of Middle Eastern descent.

“I remember one of the kids grabbing this kid and beating him up within five-minutes of the planes going into the towers and they were saying that it was the Taliban,” Quincey said. “That poor kid had nothing to do with it. It was weird watching the news on TV and then watching how people reacted to it instantly, and pointing fingers without knowing any facts. … It was really eye-opening for me as someone new to the school.”

What is truly alarming is that attacks, similar to the unprovoked in King City on Sept. 11, 2001, are occurring with greater regularity in middle and high schools across North America and go widely unreported.

According to the Defeat the Label Foundation, an estimated 282,000 students are reportedly attacked in U.S. high schools each month, and kids who are bullied are 50 percent more likely to commit suicide.

The statistics deliver a mind-numbing hit as lethal as a Niklas Kronwall body-check on an unsuspecting forward skating with his head down.

And that’s why the Red Wings have joined forces with Defeat the Label, a grassroots initiative started in Detroit, to put a stop to bullying and social labeling.

Growing up in Saskatchewan, Mike Babcock was never bullied as a young child. And the thought of picking on someone because they are perceived as weak, infuriates the Wings’ coach. 

“How good do you feel about bullying someone?” Babcock said. “I think a sense of power comes when you reach out and help someone else out, does it not? Normally, when you ridicule someone else, when you bully someone else, it's because you don't feel that great about yourself. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

“Why would you bully anybody? That's very obvious because they're that easy to bully and that's what they do, they prey on the weak and that tells you about them. There's no room for that today in society. It should be about building people up and not tearing people down and helping feel good about who they are.”

For Quincey, who attended four different high schools in four years, being the new guy every year made him an easy target for backlash.

“I went to a lot of different schools and was the new kid every year,” he said. “I can see where kids can be cruel some times and at the same time it was difficult being the new guy. You were going into places not knowing people. I wasn’t bullied, per say, but the chances definitely were there for something to happen. But spreading hate is one of the worst things you can do and it’s not just kids, it’s everybody.”

Recently, several Wings’ players, including Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Danny Cleary helped the anti-bullying movement when they made a public service announcement for Defeat the Label.

“It’s very important for us to be apart of this because there are a lot of kids, who hopefully look up to us as not only athletes, but people and I think anytime you can help out in any way it’s really important to support something like this,” Kronwall said.

In a new documentary “Bully”, five young victims of bullying are focused on as a snapshot of the ordeals faced by more than 13 million American kids this year alone, according to U.S. Department of Education estimates.

Ultimately, the heartbreaking documentary encourages kids to stand up to bullies, not stand by, and reinforces the fact that everyone can make a difference when it comes to this important issue.

According to Defeat the Label, 90 percent of fourth through eighth graders report being victims of bullying. And when bullying turns to suicide, which is the third-leading cause of death among young children, change and acceptance is necessary.

“Well, that’s just sad. That gives me chills just thinking about it,” Kronwall said. “It really is just devastating and when it comes down to that you know that it’s been going on way too long and it’s time for the whole society to realize that it’s a problem.”

It’s not an easy issue for parents to deal with on both sides. Nobody wants to believe that their child is a victim, while others don’t want to accept that their children are capable of inflicting such physical and psychological trauma on their peers.

“When you have young ones, you know that they’re going to go through stuff like this as they get older,” said goalie Joey MacDonald, the father of two young children. “Even when my son is on the ice he’ll say, ‘Yeah dad, there is this big guy who keeps running me over and over and I’m going to hack him.’ I have to tell him to just let the refs handle it. I know he sees what he sees on TV, but you can’t go around slashing people like that. ‘But dad,’ he say, ‘I want to hit him.’

“There’s a time and a place, but as a dad you want to be the best dad that you can be and give them the most positive notes that you can, and the same with my daughter and it’s just as bad with girls now a days, maybe worse.”

For Quincey, he wishes he would have done more to stop the violence on that dreadful day.

“It’s time to move past it. Society would be a better place if we could move past it, that’s for sure,” he said. “As kids, I don’t know who is to blame: the kids or the people that are teaching them? I think it should be nurture over nature, that’s my opinion.”

CLICK HERE  to watch the Defeat The Label Funny or Die Video. Stand 4 Change is May 4 at 12 p.m.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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