Sports Hockey Canada scandal and August time slot cast cloud over world junior tournament in Edmonton
SIMMONS: Time to collapse Hockey Canada - and start all over again
When the dust finally clears and the stench of scandal and coverup drifts away, Hockey Canada needs to be replaced. Destroyed really. Completely torn down. Rebuilt with a new name, new logo, new trusted executives, completely accountable and accessible: There needs to be a central hockey agency in this hockey nation. There must be that. But it can’t be one we don’t trust or can’t trust or can’t believe in. But first, we need to understand and need a complete and clear understanding of all that’s gone on and gone wrong here. A forensic accounting and cleansing all at the same time.
In Canada, the World Junior Championship tournament usually nets massive profits that trickle all the way down to hockey’s grassroots.
In 2012 for instance, when the late December to early January fixture was played in Calgary’s Saddledome and Edmonton’s Rexall Place, it generated a surplus of about $22 million. The largest slices of that considerable pie were gobbled up by Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the International Ice Hockey Federation, but minor hockey associations in Alberta also benefited.
Timeline: Hockey Canada's handling of 2018 sexual assault allegation
A timeline of Hockey Canada's response to an alleged sexual assault involving eight players in London, Ont., in 2018: Jan. 5, 2018 — Canada's world junior hockey team defeats Sweden in the gold-medal final in Buffalo, N.Y. June 18, 2018 — Hockey Canada Foundation Gala & Golf event begins in London. June 19, 2018 — A woman's stepfather informs Hockey Canada she alleges she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of the world junior team, while intoxicated the previous night following the event. Hockey Canada says it spoke with its insurance provider and then informed London police, which opened an investigation.
The 2022 edition of the annual event, however, seems much less like a potential money-maker and far more like the proverbial turd in the punch bowl. Postponed from its normal premium slot on the sporting calendar after COVID-19 outbreaks forced teams from Russia, the United States and Czechia to forfeit preliminary round games, it is scheduled for Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place, Edmonton’s gleaming downtown puck palace.
But it seems the boys of winter are not the same kind of draw in the dog days of summer.
What’s more, the tournament will go ahead without powerhouse Russia, whose team was ousted by the IIHF after the country’s military invasion of Ukraine. Latvia subs in to join Canada, Finland, Slovakia and Czechia in Group A, while the U.S., Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Austria form Group B.
Jack Todd: Change at Hockey Canada needs to come at the top
There have always been stories. Backroom, side-of-the-mouth, smirking stories. Rude, crude, third-hand, fifth-hand stories. Unproven and unprovable, but still bouncing around in the echo chamber that is hockey culture. This summer, the stories have emerged from locker rooms and post-game drinks in team hotels into the limelight. A person perusing the sports pages might reasonably conclude that everyone connected to the game on the men’s side is out of control.
Unfortunate timing and the absence of a world hockey power are only two of the tournament’s troubling issues, and neither occupies top spot.
On Wednesday, some two weeks before puck drop, Hockey Canada officials will testify for a second time before a Parliamentary committee struck to investigate the organization’s handling or perhaps mishandling of group sexual assault allegations involving several unidentified members of the 2018 world junior team. In May, Hockey Canada settled a $3.55 million lawsuit filed by a woman alleging she was sexually assaulted by eight junior-aged players in a London, Ont. hotel room following the Hockey Canada Gala and Golf event in June 2018. Hockey Canada ceased its external investigation of the incident without first determining what occurred or who was involved, and an investigation by London police did not result in any charges laid. There have been similar group sexual assault allegations made recently against unidentified members of the 2003 Canadian world junior team. That alleged incident is being investigated by Halifax police.
Calls for change dominate hearings on Hockey Canada sexual assault cases
Calls for drastic change within Hockey Canada, Sport Canada, and the way sport bodies deal with sexual assault in Canada were clear during two days of testimony and questioning by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage this week. The hearings were called due to Hockey Canada’s alleged involvement in sexual assault in 2018. In an open letter to Canada’s Minister of Sport, Pascale St-Onge, leading up to the hearings, more than two dozen Canadian sport scholars from universities across the nation pointed out that although these incidents of sexual violence may be new to many in the public, they are not new to those in sport.
The 2018 scandal provoked sobering reaction from an all-star lineup of Hockey Canada sponsors; Canadian Tire, Telus, Scotiabank, Tim Hortons and Imperial Oil among them. The corporations paused sponsorship and marketing activation for the 2022 world junior tournament and some have re-directed their investments to Hockey Canada programming for women’s teams and both equity and grassroots initiatives. Scotiabank also made a donation to a charity that supports women who have been victims of gender-based violence.
Hockey Canada has since committed to a governance review overseen by a third party, and has re-engaged the firm of Henein Hutchison to conduct a second investigation of the 2018 incident, this time with the apparent cooperation of the alleged victim. The organization has also announced an action plan to shatter the so-called “code of silence” and “eliminate toxic behaviour in and around Canada’s game.” According to Hockey Canada, the action plan includes commitments in areas of “accountability, governance, independent sport safety checks, and standards, education and training.”
Sex assault survivors after Hockey Canada executives’ testimony: ‘Get out of the way now’
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Whether related to the scandal or the postponement, it appears there will be serious repercussions for tournament stakeholders at the gate next month. The Ticketmaster website shows great swaths of available seats in the lower bowl for most games not involving Team Canada. It’s believed the upper bowl will not be opened for those games, though that decision has apparently not been finalized. There has been more demand for tickets to all Canadian games, and tickets are being sold in the upper bowl for those matches.
But it’s hard to imagine attendance reaching the heights of previous Canadian tournaments — Ottawa drew 450,000 plus in 2009 for instance — especially given the relative lack of marketing push from the IIHF and Hockey Canada. Two weeks out, the tournament does not have an overt presence in the city.
Officials from Hockey Canada and the IIHF have not answered interview requests from Postmedia regarding the tournament. The Oilers Entertainment Group, acting as the tournament’s venue partner, issued a statement to Postmedia on Tuesday.
“We are working diligently as the tournament venue to host 28 games, 220 athletes and over 120 representatives from the 10 competing nations in Edmonton this August,” OEG said. “Due to the Omicron outbreak in December, the International Ice Hockey Federation had to cancel the tournament and shift to a summer tournament to give the athletes a chance to compete for their countries. Hosting a hockey tournament in the summer certainly presents unique challenges, but also creates opportunities to do things differently and utilize outdoor spaces. We continue to work with the IIHF to prepare for the arrival of athletes next week.”
World Juniors schedule 2022: Full dates, times, TV channels, live streams to watch every hockey game .
World Juniors schedule 2022: Full dates, times, TV channels, live streams to watch every hockey gameThe 10-team tournament will start fresh, with some new rosters, new teams and a completely new schedule. Results from the winter will not carry over into summer, so you can flush everything from December away.