Friday, November 11, 2011

NHL Alumni Interview with Chris Nilan and Stuntman Stu

 
Chris Nilan and Stu Schwartz - No More Bullies

Andrew Rodger - NHLA Writer

Speaking out against bullying is not new, as it has been an ongoing problem for children of all ages for many years. Whether it is physical, verbal or cyber bullying, the results are the same. The victims live in a shroud of fear and depression. They are often left feeling isolated and alone, wondering if their anguish will ever end. Finding a solution to bullying has taken on a new sense of urgency in recent years, as a growing number of young people that are being victimized by bullies, like 15-year old Jamie Hubley in Ottawa, believed that their only solution was to take their own lives. The common goal of speaking out about bullying has brought Chris Nilan and Stu Schwartz to the forefront of the discussion, as they help to raise awareness about this complicated subject.

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to the Majic 100
No More Bullies campaign
nomorebullies.ca

A Stanley Cup champion in 1986 with the Montreal Canadiens, Chris Nilan is one of the most popular players in the storied history of the illustrious Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. On a team filled with future Hall of Famers, Chris was a fierce competitor that brought toughness and a never-quit attitude to the Canadiens lineup during the 1980’s. While he defended his teammates on a regular basis by dropping the gloves, he was more than a fighter - he was a leader.

Stu Schwartz is a popular radio host in Ottawa and if you are familiar with his work on Majic 100, you may know him better by his nickname, Stuntman Stu. While he spends his mornings helping listeners start their day and head off to work, he is also the PA Announcer for the National Hockey Leagues Ottawa Senators. A former Montrealer, Stu is very active in the Ottawa community, helping numerous charities and organizations.

A victim of bullying himself, Stu commented on his radio show that if he had to visit every school in Ottawa to speak out about bullying, he would gladly do it. Some people said ‘that would take twenty years’ and he replied - then that’s how long I will be visiting schools. When his wife suggested he write ‘No More Bullies’ on his hand and circulate the picture via Twitter (@stuntmanstu), he admitted that he was doubtful at first that it would have an impact. However, it has given a voice to many that felt they were powerless to speak up; hundreds of pictures have been posted on the Majic 100 ‘No More Bullies’ Facebook page. (www.nomorebullies.ca)

“It took a few minutes for me to wrap my head around it,” Stu said about following up on his wife’s idea. “But, as I was writing it on my hand, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I thought that this was actually a great way for people to show their support. You don’t have to go protest on Parliament Hill; it’s a way to show your support and it is something that everybody can do.”


Ottawa radio host
Stuntman Stu
(NoMoreBullies.ca)
That age-old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words certainly rings true these days, as children, adults, entire families, police officers, teachers, the Mayor of Ottawa and the city councillors are all lending their support and their hand to ‘speak’ out against bullying. Much to Stu’s surprise, shortly after sending out his ‘No More Bullies’ picture, Chris Nilan sent out a similar picture via his @KnucklesNilan30 Twitter account.

“Within a couple of hours of doing it, Chris tweeted a picture with his Stanley Cup ring on backwards and ‘No More Bullies’ written on his hand. The minute I saw that, I was like ‘Wow, why would he do that?’ Now though, I have stopped asking why because I have been blown away by the support from everyone!”

“It’s been great to have so many people involved,” Stu said. “But when you get somebody from the sports world that you grew up watching taking part, that’s pretty cool. It’s Chris putting his name out there, saying he believes in bringing an end to bullying and that’s very admirable.”

Speaking out against bullying and standing up for kids is a natural instinct for the legendary Habs forward. He explained that standing up for others extends beyond his time in the NHL and it is something he has done his entire life.

“It’s funny, some people think it’s quite ironic that I am doing this now, but I don’t see the irony in it at all,” Chris said on the phone from Montreal. “It’s all I have ever done. Growing up as a kid, I stood up for my friends. I have been in situations before in the city, growing up in my neighbourhood, when kids were being picked on. I always stuck up for my friends and even complete strangers at times.”

“I hate to see it happen to any kid! I can only imagine the emotional, mental and sometimes physical torment that one goes through when you are subjected to that day after day. When no one helps them and they are alone, on that little island all by themselves.”

Bullying has become a multi-layered problem in today’s technological world. While many adults think of the physical and verbal aspects of bullying, it has also crossed over to the cyber world as well. The anonymous nature of the online world has led bullies to strike out in increasingly aggressive ways. Bullying can no longer be perceived as being a problem that only takes place during school hours. Victims were once able to escape to the safety of their houses, but now the abuse can follow them right into their homes.

“I experienced that form of bullying as well,” Stu confided. “I think that now that I am an adult, I can deal with it much better then I could when I was a child. I can’t imagine what it is like to be a child today and be bullied. I think now, it has become less about being beat up and more about the cyber-bullying. The word bullying just covers such a wide, wide base.”

“Whether it is cyber-bullying or whatever way that it happens, it’s a terrible thing,” added Chris. “People can get on a computer today and use that as an avenue to torment people, spreading false rumours or saying things that directly hurt or affect those kids that are perceived as weaker or maybe are a little more timid and have a hard time to gather up the strength to stand up for themselves.”

“Kids don’t understand that when they tease and pick on other kids what it can do to them,” he continued. “They don’t realize the emotional scars that those things leave on kids that are bullied. The emotional hurt, the pain, the loneliness of going home every night as the kid that is picked on. When there is nobody there to stick up for you - it is the worst feeling in the world.”

Part of the problem with bullying is that many children will stand by and watch it happen. Whether it is out of fear or indifference, they do not speak out or stand up for their classmate. This contributes to that sense of isolation for bullying victims.

“They don’t say anything to their teachers or the cops because they don’t want to be perceived as someone that is a ‘rat’,” stated Chris. “In a situation like that though, what allegiance do they have to the person that is picking on a kid and doing what they’re doing? There should be no allegiance. There might be some fear because that person who goes and tells is probably retaliated against. That’s why a lot of people don’t step up and say something, but people have to start to step up and speak out. More importantly, educators, teachers and people that are in the school system have to take it more seriously and there has to be education and some kind of punishment for these actions too.”

As previously mentioned, more and more young people victimized by bullies feel that their only solution, their only escape from the emotional and physical pain of bullying, is to take their own lives. The constant torment and isolation leads to depression and they simply cannot take the abuse any more. It is a tragic situation that requires us as a society to stand up and say this cannot continue. We have to bring about change!


Habs Legend Chris Nilan
(KnucklesNilan.com)
“We want to be able to talk to kids and teach them,” Chris explained. “To have them learn that what they are doing can really, really hurt someone. It can force someone like Jamie Hubley in Ottawa to take his own life to get away from the torment. A kid that reached out for help and couldn’t get it. A kid that was told, it’s not a big deal and was brushed aside. It was a big deal to him; it was such a big deal that he took his own life. It’s just a terrible, terrible place for a kid to be!”

“For Jamie Hubley’s memory to stay alive, I think he has to be the last one,” Stu said, his voice filled with emotion. “We do not want to see what happened to Jamie happen in Ottawa or anywhere else again. No child should have to experience that, no adult should have to experience that. I am not proposing that we all sit around and hold hands by the campfire. We are all different and have different views - people are different, that’s just the way it is. If you don’t like somebody, don’t pay any attention to them, just leave them alone.”

Those who knew Jamie Hubley say that the young man was a talented singer and actor. He had a smile ready for anyone that needed one, but he battled with depression caused by the constant bullying he experienced at school. His father told CBC News that Jamie was “the kind of boy that loved everybody” and he couldn’t understand why others could be so cruel. Jamie was bullied for being openly gay, as well as the fact that he loved figure skating. It is a tragedy that could have been avoided. We need to embrace our differences - our individual differences are what make our society great. As Stu said, we do not want to see this happen ever again.

When the Season Three cast of the CBC’s Battle of the Blades heard about Jamie’s passing, they too joined in the discussion about bullying. All of the participants dedicated their skating programs to Jamie and posted special video messages at the Battle of the Blades website (www.cbc.ca/battle), extending their condolences to the Hubley family, as well expressing the need for the bullying to end.

Jeremy Roenick - “I was born and raised to treat other people like I wanted to be treated myself. There is no room in this world for bullying. You might think that you are making yourself look cool or look better, but really, you are making yourself look like one of the most despicable people in the world. We are here to respect each other, help each other and enjoy a life that God has given us. If you are being bullied, please reach out to your parents, reach out to a teacher or a friend... Don’t create nightmares, build dreams.”

Bryan Berard - “If we see bullying, on the playgrounds, in school, or wherever it is, I think we should stand up for each other and help each other out and stop bullying. We really have to get that message out there to help kids. Also, speak up if you are having a tough time, whether it’s at school, at work, wherever you are, we can reach out and help each other. We can save lives.”

Brad May - “It should not matter if you are gay or if you are straight, if you play hockey or if you are a figure skater, the bullying and the ridiculing has to stop. We are skating for Jamie, we are skating for all of the kids that are bullied and please, if you are one doing the bullying - you have to stop.”

Chris has already spoken at several schools about the dangers and effects of bullying and he is actively working towards starting several projects with the No More Bullies message. While kids may not always think it is ‘cool’ to listen to their teachers, hopefully, having a Stanley Cup champion speaking out will get their attention.

“If I can help spread a message, then that’s great,” Chris said. “But it is going to come down to the educators, the teachers and the people in the schools every day to be more active when it comes to reporting these incidents. Kids need to get out of their comfort zone and overcome the fear of retaliation and saying something. It’s making teachers aware that there are vulnerable kids, constantly being terrorized.”

“It’s something I am passionate about it and I’ll help any way I can. We are doing some things at my website (www.knucklesnilan.com) and we are making some shirts with the ‘No More Bullies’ message and we’ll donate the proceeds to an organization that works to help kids. Hopefully, we can help these kids get the help that they need.”

Stu and his colleagues at Majic 100 are embarking on a series of school visits in the Ottawa area starting this month, hoping to raise awareness about the dangers of bullying as well. It is a message that kids, teachers, parents, all of us need to hear and take to heart. Standing by on the sidelines is no longer an option.

“I’m doing this because I was bullied,” Stu said. “I am also doing this because I don’t want my kids to be bullied and experience that in any way, shape or form. We live in a community - this is what we do. When a story came out at the start of the school year about an incident at a Nepean high school, I felt very passionate about doing something because it brought back a lot of memories for me that were pretty painful.”

“I think we have a really good presentation, with some experience, some amazing stories and messages that we hope will sink in,” he continued. “To the bullies sitting in the crowd, who may laugh it off at the beginning of the presentation, I hope that by the end of it they think twice and realize what words can do.”

At the end of each interview, I asked Stu and Chris to speak directly to the young hockey fans that visit the NHL Alumni website. It is time to change our attitudes, not only about bullying, but also about how we treat each other on a daily basis. Whether it is at work, at home, online, or simply passing each other on the street, it is time for change and it is certainly time for us all to lend a hand and say it is time for No More Bullies.

“Words can kill,” Stu said emphatically. “If a young person reads this and doesn’t understand what I mean by that, let me explain. When you put words out there on a social media site, when you email someone hurtful things and you think you are just kidding around, the person on the other end of that tweet or Facebook message may not see it that way. You really have to think every time you post something, that this could have some serious repercussions, somebody on the other end may not see the humour and they may be hurt by it.”

“Just understand,” Chris began. “That when you say something bad about someone else, how much it really hurts them inside - understand how much you can hurt a person. If you are a kid that is not involved with bullying, but you see it happening, step in and help that person. Whether it is going to a teacher or the police, step up and try to protect that kid that is being picked on and bullied. Step in there, maybe get out of your comfort zone, and try to hep that person. Go to a teacher, guidance counsellor, police officer, public safety official, anybody, to try to get their attention and make them aware of the situation. It’s not just physical bullying, words can hurt just as much as any weapon or fist. Actually, they can hurt a lot more!”

Chris and Stu are helping to lead the way, but it is time for all of us to get involved. We must stand up and deliver the message - it is time for a world with no more bullies.

If you are a victim of bullying and feel isolated and alone, please know that you are not alone. It is important to speak to your parents, a teacher, anyone that will listen. If they do not take you seriously, try again. If you need help or need advice on how to speak to someone about bullying, call the Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 - they are there to help too.


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