EEarlier this spring, the woman submitted a statement detailing the alleged sexual assault that took place in June 2018 at an event hosted by Hockey Canada, the governing body of national sports. She claimed to have been forced into sexual activity for hours against her will against eight men, including players from the junior male championship team under the age of 20 that year. In April, she asked the judge to pay $ 3.55 million in damages. Hockey Canada has settled. (The motion has never been proved in court.)
Reassuring everyone that the settlement wasn’t paid in taxpayer money was part of the reason hockey Canada executives were in Ottawa this week to testify at the Parliamentary Commission. And they wanted everyone to feel at ease about something else. That hockey culture is changing for the better. “Hockey Canada is on a journey to change our sporting culture and make it safer and more comprehensive,” Hockey Canada CEO Tom Lenny told MPs.
Lenny later explained that Hockey Canada had promptly contacted police on the allegations and hired a third-party investigator to issue a report. Both were definitely the correct steps. But the investigation did not go far. Lenny said the alleged woman refused to speak to the investigator and did not want to identify the player involved.
Did anyone else try to identify them? Committee members repeatedly asked this in various ways. Every time the answer was the same: it wasn’t. Hockey Canada “strongly encouraged all players to participate” in a third-party survey. Some players-probably a dozen or so-but I don’t know who they are. And the law firm that led the investigation couldn’t conclude the job by providing Hockey Canada with only an interim report. If the woman didn’t submit her claim this spring, we wouldn’t know anything about this.
“I don’t know why Hockey Canada didn’t enforce the rule that all members of its team must participate in the investigation,” MP Peter Julian said during the meeting. The answer may be that there were no rules to enforce. Not yet. “Participation in the survey is voluntary and it is unacceptable to require players to participate in the survey by telling players that they have not changed their requirements for participation in the national team after four years. “It was,” MP and Commission member Anthony Housefather told The Guardian.
On Wednesday, the government frozen hockey Canada’s federal funding (which received $ 14 million last year), suspending disclosure of the advice the organization received in the interim report and signing on to the government’s Sports Integrity Commissioner’s office. did. We will independently investigate allegations of abuse and take sanctions.
Several times during the Commission’s appearance, hockey Canadian executives sought to put this latest alleged assault into a broader social context. There are more than 650,000 registered hockey players in Canada, said Chief Operating Officer Scott Smith. “Unfortunately, we are the epitome of society. We are the epitome of this country,” he said. Hockey culture may have been shaped by Canadians, but don’t pretend it doesn’t work the other way around. There are hundreds of thousands more behind all these players, including families, coaches, executives, league managers, link supervisors, fans, and so on, so you understand the idea. This is Canada. This sport makes us too.
Housefather says he believes that Hockey Canada “is in good faith when it says it wants to change its culture.” But, as Lenny said, if it’s on such a “journey,” it’s worth knowing where it is on the road. I asked Hockey Canada this week and didn’t get a reply. So your guess is as good as mine, but it certainly feels pretty circular. After all, this isn’t the first time this has happened.
In fact, Kyle Beach, a former Chicago Blackhawks player, has identified himself as a victim of abuse by former team video coach Brad Aldrich, as he returned in September, before the latest NHL season began. I feel it. The Blackhawks have not started investigating this case for 10 years. This past fall, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hinted at the cultural changes that took place during that time, suggesting that the case would now be treated differently, “because it is unacceptable.” The NHL has begun its own investigation into Hockey Canada’s claims in case some of the former youth players are currently in the league. So we will see.
As Athletic said it this week, summarizing the previous famous allegations of abuse, this is “a story of hockey decades ago.” Again, I’m reading all the chapters. The player is objectified, or someone else is objectified. Aftermath silence. The report will be edited. Cultural change is promised. After that, play continues, more trivial issues are taken over, and rules and salary caps are discussed. At this point, it’s something I feel is important to the health of the game.
However, during that time, youth hockey registration stagnates and the social system of sports declines. Maybe the financial cost of hockey is too high for parents. Or maybe it’s a mental and physical toll. Take me, for example. Here I am wondering how my kid can play the sport he loves without being abused by a disliked person or letting hockey turn him into one. Wherever Hockey Canada thinks it’s in the middle of its journey, we still feel like we’re at a point where both seem possible.