He may not give his all on the ice, but Minnesota Wild winger Thomas Vanek is tirelessly working to eradicate the NHL's institutional bullying of low-effort players, also called "sloth-shaming."
Vanek, 31, has been selected as the spokesperson for "Some Is Good", an advocacy group that is working to create acceptance and inclucivity in the hockey community, regardless of a player’s effort level.
"I was proud and honored to be chosen as Some Is Good’s spokesperson. I know how important it is to end sloth-shaming, because I’ve been dealing with it my entire life."
Some Is Good is equally pleased with the partnership.
"We wanted someone to really get after this issue that plagues hockey culture, and we believe Thomas is just the person to do it." Dan Arcedia, co-founder of Some is Good says. "Thomas really exemplifies our mantra of ‘Great at Any Effort’, and we expect him to diligently champion our cause."
Some Is Good started because Arcedia felt the environment at all levels of hockey was hostile and unhealthy for low-energy players.
"It’s truly unsettling to see the discrimination against low-effort players in the NHL. Every day, low-energy players get less ice time, less opportunity, and ultimately, worse contracts than other players. And why? Because they don’t backcheck? The NHL needs to realize that some players just aren’t wired that way, and that’s OK."
This alleged discrimination by coaches, fans, and media can take quite the emotional toll on these marginalized players who fail to live up to what Vanek believes is an unrealistic standard of effort.
"It’s a daily struggle for me, being bombarded with images of effort in the media." the enigmatic winger said, choking back tears. "You see someone like [Zach] Parise scoring goals by giving that all-out effort, and you realize ‘Not every player can play like that.’"
It isn’t made any easier, Vanek says, by the manipulation of highlights done by the media.
"What people need to know is those highlights are re-touched and taken out-of-context. Sure, they’ll show highlights of the guys who make that extra effort to score a goal, but they don’t even show you that during the entire game, the goalie just stands around by the net. He barely even skates! But no one calls him lazy. It seems really arbitrary and hypocritical to me."
The Some Is Good movement is just starting out, and is challenged by the fact that few players are willing to speak out, fearing the discrimination that comes with being labeled "low-effort."
"I’d love to stand with Thomas, as there’s no defense for discrimination," says a player who, wishing to remain anonymous, would only be identified as "#50in07". "But at the end of the day, I need to have a job. I can’t risk getting labeled ‘lazy.’ It’s just not the time to make a social stand."
Vanek, who not only has made $70 million in his career but also has two years remaining on his contract, sympathizes with those players who can’t yet come forward. He vows to use his job security to advocate for the low-effort NHLers who are silenced by a culture of sloth-shaming.
"It may not happen during the course of my career," a hopeful Vanek states, "But I know that if I speak up for the low-energy players who suffer from this discrimination, things will get better. Whether it takes 10, 20, or 30 years, we will see an NHL that is eradicated of this harmful culture of sloth-shaming.
"You can bet on it."