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Speaking of Sports 

Sanders announces he will not run against Jeffords for U.S. Senate.

Bernie Sanders

Published December 1, 1999 at 1:00 a.m.

The silence surrounding the UVM Hockey Hazing Scandal has been absolutely deafening. But the stories going 'round town describing some of the hazing activities have been positively Howard Stern-esque material. If any of it is ever confirmed, it'll sure be interesting to see how the local press phrases the details of the hazing activities for the "family audience." This is, after all, the nation's most livable city.

Take a bunch of testosterone-pumping young jocks, undress 'em, add a splash — a big splash — of alcohol and some ice, and you have the makings of a B-movie screenplay. Look, you don't need an anthropologist to know initiation rituals are older than the millennium. We're tribal animals and we always will be. At least the UVM hockey pucks weren't plotting to blow up the Bailey/Howe Library or machine-gun fellow students in the campus bookstore.

The university brass have grabbed this bull by the horns. Veteran Coach Mike Gilligan, a gem of a guy, stepped in quickly to put the "kids" off-limits to the media. Then, on November 12, the night of the Yale game, the team clammed up totally. No press contact, period. A Berlin Wall went up between the players and the media. Pucksters would not even take questions about the game, the goal or the check, let alone the alleged hazing or recently departed teammates. It's a very awkward situation. The UVM Catamounts have the unfortunate distinction of being the only team in hockey skating under a gag order.

And our sources say several hockey players have lawyered-up, as in, retained local legal counsel. Just imagine how much cash UVM might pony up to keep a young, abused freshman hockey puck from filing a juicy lawsuit over in Chittenden Superior Court.

What's going on here is bigger than hockey — it's UVM's image and reputation. Unfortunately, these days Groovy UV's ice hockey program appears to be in free fall. Some fans talk openly about the need for a coaching change. Middlebury Norwich and even St. Michael's have become the hot teams in the Green Mountains, as UVM turns into a perennial also-ran.

Certainly one could look at the bright side and say it’s just the low point of the cycle. That the winning teams and sell-out crowds will return to the glorious Gut. Even though this year’s lackluster squad was shut out 8-0 by North Dakota the other night, UVM did, after all, hold the “Fighting Sioux” to under two touchdowns.

The only information UVM Sports Information Director Gordon Woodworth could give us on the matter Tuesday was the phone number of the university’s designated spokesman on the case — Enrique Corredera.

An investigation by university officials has been underway for “about a month,” said Corredera, a 10-year veteran of the UVM public relations squad. He declined to name any of the officials conducting the investigation.

"It is not a criminal investigation," he said. "It's an internal investigation to determine whether university policies or team rules may have been violated." Enrique said he doesn't "expect the process to go beyond the middle of December."

If you're surprised that the local sports media hasn't broken through the UVM wall of silence, you're not alone. If student conduct involving similar spicy ingredients afflicted any other part of the campus community, the local Fourth Estate would surely have been all over it weeks ago. C'mon, just imagine "Nude Sorority Initiations!" or "Naked, Drunk and Streaking Engineering Majors" or "Chemistry Club Puts the 'Cock' back in Cocktails."

But the sports section apparently is kinder and gentler than the news section. Is off-ice con-duct by hockey pucks a news story or a sports story? And are cheerleading sports reporters really just part of the team?

Ch. 3 sports director J.J. Cioffi refutes the charge the local sports media has backed off the UVM hazing story. J.J.'s heard the very descriptive "unconfirmed" stories around town, too, but, he said, "We're waiting to see what the report is. Let them conduct the investigation."

Cioffi noted Ch. 3 Sports has reported the hazing involves the men's ice hockey team, that alcohol was involved, and that players were "made to perform degrading acts." Cioffi said Ch. 3 has done the right thing "by not going crazy" over this. "You've got to have a little faith in UVM," he said.

Is it faith, or is it kid-glove treatment for UVM sports?

Stay tuned to see just how much the university makes public on this one.

Victory for the Bonhomme Jeezum! — Both the pharmaceutical industry and Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords have had a pretty good week.

Jeffords, Big Drug's favorite candidate, no longer risks losing his senate seat Big Drug's worst nightmare — Congressman Bernie Sanders. They’ll probably celebrate by doubling the price of Viagra

Jeezum Jim, meanwhile, has finally gotten his back problem taken care of, and we wish him a speedy recovery. Jeffords has also achieved the first step of his two-step re-election plan — he’s kept Sanders out of the race. Bravo, Jeezum! You’re halfway home.

Now Democrats Ed Flanagan and Jan Backus can snip back and forth at each other until the September primary, while Jeezum remains serenely above the fray. He’ll deflect the criticism Fast Eddie and Jan of Arc hurl at him by saying, “I really can’t comment until I know who my opponent is,” which means not until after the primary. He’ll have a multi-million-dollar war chest ready for the biggest television blitz Vermont’s ever seen. Can’t wait.

But it won’t be a free ride for Rutland’s hero. Far from it. That’s because 2000 is going to be payback time for Jim Jeffords.

See, Jeezum and his team have been trying to knock off Ol’ Bernado for years. They went allout for Bernie’s opponents, John Caroll in 1994, and Susan Sweetser in 1996. Trust me, Bernie remembers. And with no serious challenger in sight, Sanders will have plenty of free time to assist the cause of Jeezum's Democratic oppo-nent.

Monday, when he announced he will not take on Jeffords, Sanders was asked if he had personally told either of Vermont's U.S. senators of his plans.

Bernie said he had spoken to St. Patrick Leahy, but had not talked to Jeezum. Asked if he intended to call Jeffords, who is recovering from his back operation at his Shrewsbury home, Sanders shot back quickly and firmly, "No."

Not even a get-well call, Bernie? So much for team spirit.

Sanders learned, to his surprise over the last few months, that most Vermont Progressives think he and Jeffords aren't that far apart politically. If only they knew what he knows.

Whether the Democrat on the November 2000 ballot is Backus or Flanagan, the primary winner can rest assured. Bernie will be your guardian angel.

Supermarket Update — Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle will hold a press conference next Monday afternoon to announce which horse he’s backing in the Big Burlap Downtown Food Fight.

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.


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