A black cloud has certainly been hanging over Hockey Canada for the past several months. And for good reason considering the discussions around alleged sexual assaults that have been brought forward against several of its players.
It’s quite honestly one of the more shocking stories to come out of Hockey Canada in several years and the fact Hockey Canada handled this so poorly, it’s a shock there haven’t been widespread changes made. The International Ice Hockey Federation has also launched an inquiry to obtain additional information about allegations of sexual assault involving Hockey Canada athletes.
The most recent incident came in June 2018 in London, Ont. where a woman accused eight former CHL players of sexual assault. Following that being brought to attention, another incident from 2003 was also brought to light. It’s a bad look when these things are brought forward for any organization and even worse when there’s no action The discussion around sexual assault needs to be had though, especially within Hockey Canada. It doesn’t matter if these young men are the best players on their team or the biggest heroes in their communities — that does not absolve them from abhorrent behaviour. Lots of hockey players from big and small communities across the country have been getting away with tons of bad behaviour for the past several decades and this is an extreme situation that demands full attention from Hockey Canada.
And Canadians across the country are not overly fond of what hockey has become. A poll from Angus Reid shows that 58 per cent of Canadians think sexual harassment and sexual assault is a major issue in youth hockey from a poll of around 2,000 people. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Canada’s game, is it? Sure, things can certainly change for the better, and kids in youth hockey should be taught how to act at a young age. The locker room can be a vile place at times and hopefully, education can be used to highlight how to treat other people, regardless of their gender, sexuality, or anything else. And we’re certainly not saying all kids coming out of Hockey Canada are terrible people — in fact, the vast majority are upstanding citizens for their community — but there are a ton who are not.
A letter from Hockey Canada was posted in July promising change and outlining new complaint mechanisms along with a review plan. But while these new incidents have been brought forward, it’s really nothing new. Hockey Canada says they have paid out $8.9 million in sexual assaults since 1989 — $6.8 million of that was related to Graham James. There have been tons of dark days in hockey for Canadians throughout the years.
The board continues to bang the drum that change is coming, but it’s hard to believe it’s coming. A completely new board should be installed and start working on how to fix this dangerous issue. Hockey should be celebrated across the country, but it’s becoming harder for people across the country to do that, especially those who have seen first-hand how some players treat people outside of the game.
Tons of work is still needed and hopefully, this incident is a changing point moving forward.