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Hockey Canada scandal is ugly from so many angles

Posted on 12 October 2022 by Ryan Dahlman

By Ryan Dahlman

Hockey creates imagery of Canada. Even though technically and historically, lacrosse is Canada’s sport, hockey is Canada’s most widely popular sport, hence (unofficially) Canada’s Game.

As such Hockey Canada is a power regulatory body. The iconic Hockey Canada symbol with its predominant maple leaf adorns a lot of merchandise not to mention many teams like the women’s national team and many junior teams of many ages. They have a done a lot to promote and develop highly skilled hockey players with its Program of Excellence.

 Like many federally-funded agencies, they are monitored by the government but not apparently very closely. Hockey Canada as it currently sits, to use overused cliches is ‘on thin ice’, ‘in the penalty box’ and are about to be thrown out of the game for some gross misconducts. 

As the saying goes “absolute power corrupts absolute.”

In a nutshell, they have initially turned a blind eye and mishandled allegations of ugly sexual assaults by junior hockey team members in the past, kept it hidden until the allegations have been brought forward. Apparently having two separate secret sexual assault payout accounts isn’t considered developing hockey.

After the horrific sexual assault allegations became public it was learned later confirmed by Hockey Canada that $8.9 million in settlements to 21 complainants with sexual misconduct claims against players since 1989.

The CBC’s investigative television program The Fifth Estate, reported 15 cases of allegations of group sexual assault (see: https://www.cbc.ca/newsinteractives/features/alleged-group-sexual-assault-junior-hockey-canada).

Current Hockey Canada executives lied not once but twice to government committees about secret accounts kept for paying out alleged sexual assault victims in damages using minor hockey fees from across Canada. Minor hockey associations across Canada have to pay part of the fees to Hockey Canada as a regulatory body which pays for a lot of things like (general operations 30%); Hockey programs (18%); development programs (7%); and other things like information, events, marketing and fundraising. Seems reasonable. 

Apparently they forgot this ‘special’ legal fund. 

No the federal government is getting after them with politicians of all political stripes criticizing the current executive’s dismissal that changes are needed.

“It boggles the mind that Hockey Canada is continuing to dig in its heels,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Oct. 5 as reported by CPAC television. “Parents across the country are losing faith or have lost faith in Hockey Canada. Certainly, politicians here in Ottawa have lost faith in Hockey Canada.”

Watching reports after the fact, Hockey Canada refuses to give in to calls about resigning or administrative changes being needed. In fact, Andrea Skinner, Hockey Canada’s interim chair of the Board of Directors told reporters recently that Hockey Canada’s CEO Scott Smith has been doing a great considering the circumstances. 

No appealing to common sense doesn’t work with the ultimate in arrogance, an unhealthy sense of ownership and an obvious attempt in trying to protect cushy executive jobs. 

Sadly, even in something like dealing with the poor, traumatized victims were swept under the rug and only dealt with when absolutely necessary. Empathetic and compassionate doesn’t seem to be in the gameplan.  

So hit em where it hurts: the banking spreadsheet. 

Sponsorships are going to take a major hit as major Canadian companies want no association with the scandal and some of mentioned not appreciating the lack of commitment for Hockey Canada to righting the ship. 

Make no mistake, companies like Tim Horton’s, which has rightly or wrongly through brilliant marketing, has interwoven itself as part of the Canadian cultural fabric with bitter coffee and pre-made, high-caloric pastries or Canadian Tire which is also a cultural/commercial Canadian icon. They have been a big supporter of minor hockey with its popular and needed First Shift program to make it possible for children who could never afford to play hockey have a special program just for them. They also have the minor sports in general Jumpstart. Then there’s Telus, a major player in Canadian telecommunications; Chevrolet Canada pulled out back in the late summer. 

Sobey’s, out. 

Skip the Dishes, out. 

Imperial Oil, out. 

Ontario and Quebec minor hockey associations are pulling back some of its fees to Hockey Canada. 

If human decency, a sense of responsibility and plain honesty aren’t factors, money talks and so does a loss of power. 

The tighter they hold on to their jobs or buy time until they can figure out their own personal legal situations, the more Hockey Canada erodes.

Hockey was slowly losing grip at the young grassroots level as fees, equipment and schedules were becoming too difficult for many parents to sustain. Those who were affluent are slowly becoming the ones who can play. 

Hockey isn’t necessarily dying but it has lost a lot of that whole innocence that it once held because of the sheer arrogances of a handful of executives… a grotesque level of a sense of entitlement.  

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