Hockey Canada has a new board of directors.
Now the real work begins.
The embattled national sport organization’s members elected a slate of candidates to fill nine vacant board seats Saturday.
Retired judge Hugh L. Fraser is Hockey Canada’s new chair, while former women’s national team captain Cassie Campbell-Pascall is one of eight directors.
The federation’s 13 provincial and territorial bodies had the choice to accept or reject the nine names, which included five women and four men, put forward by an independent nominating committee.
Three days after interim chair Andrea Skinner stepped down in October, Hockey Canada’s previous board also quit — under-fire president and CEO Scott Smith left at the same time — amid blistering criticism related to the scandal-plagued organization’s handling of sexual assault allegations and hushed payouts to victims.
“We understand the disappointment and the loss of confidence,” Fraser said Saturday in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. “There is a lot of work to be done in rebuilding Hockey Canada.
“Our focus is on making the sport safer and more inclusive and rebuilding that trust.”
Grant Borbridge, Julie Duranceau, David Evans, Marni Fullerton, Jonathan F. Goldbloom, Marian Jacko and Andrea Poole were also voted in as directors.
Their first order of business will be to hire a new CEO and rebuild faith in an organization badly bruised since May when it was revealed a woman alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight CHL players — including members of the 2018 world junior team — following a Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont, four years ago. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The fallout was swift.
Hockey Canada saw its federal and corporate funding slashed as more scandals surfaced, while a string of disastrous heritage committee meetings on Parliament Hill that saw officials past and present grilled by MPs ultimately led to the board’s resignation and Smith’s departure.
The ugly headlines included the revelation that Hockey Canada’s little-known National Equity Fund — maintained by fees collected from players across the country — had been used to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.
With nearly three decades experience at the Ontario court of justice, Fraser has been on the Court of Arbitration for Sport since 1995 and served on the first ad hoc court at the 1996 Olympics.
Born in Jamaica and raised in Kingston, Ont., he also competed in the men’s 200-metre track and field event at the 1976 Olympics and is the father of former NHL defenceman Mark Fraser.
“It means a great deal,” Fraser said of being selected from a pool of more than 550 applicants.
“I’m a passionate hockey fan and watched from the sidelines as recent events have unfolded.”
Liberal MP and heritage committee member Anthony Housefather said in a statement the new board represents “a diverse group of very qualified people.”
“They also have a tremendous challenge,” he added.
“To say that Hockey Canada has been through a tumultuous time is an understatement,” Conservative MP and heritage committee member Rachael Thomas said in a separate statement. “The newly minted members of the board have the responsibility to players, parents and the Canadian people to guide the organization into a positive future.”
Campbell-Pascall brings the most Hockey Canada experience to the table.
The three-time Olympian, who helped the women’s team capture gold at both the 2002 and 2006 Games, currently sits on the board of its foundation and was the first female hockey player inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
An Order of Canada recipient, Campbell-Pascall was also the first woman to provide colour commentary on “Hockey Night in Canada” and is a regular on Sportsnet’s NHL telecasts.
Her husband, Brad Pascall, is an assistant general manager with the Calgary Flames and worked in senior management roles at Hockey Canada from 1995 through 2014, according to his LinkedIn page.
“Cassie is not to be held responsible for her husband’s prior employment,” Fraser said. “She’s carved her own career and will be a very, very valued contributor to help us with our understanding of some of the challenges in the game.”
Borbridge, Jacko and Poole, meanwhile, have significant hockey administration experience.
A corporate lawyer from Calgary, Borbridge served on the board of the Girls Hockey Calgary Association and the Glenlake Minor Hockey Club.
Jacko, an Anishinaabe from Wiikwemkoong First Nation, is the assistant deputy attorney general for the Indigenous Justice Division in Ontario. She is also president of the Little Native Hockey League.
Poole, who runs an accounting firm, has sat as director of the Ottawa East Minor Hockey Association.
The other new board members come from outside the sport.
Duranceau is a lawyer and an accredited mediator, Goldbloom is a communications specialist, Fullerton has experience as a senior adviser and CEO, and Evans has worked in the consulting, advisory and real estate industries.
Fraser pointed to that wide range of expertise as crucial to Hockey Canada’s path forward.
“There’s obviously more visible diversity than organizations like this have tended to display,” he said. “But we talk about diversity of thought as well.
“The perspectives that everyone brings, I’ve just been so impressed.”
Former Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell headed an independent review into Hockey Canada released in November. The 221-page document concluded the federation was at a “crossroads” and called for more oversight and accountability.
Cromwell’s report provided a number of recommendations, including that moving forward no more than 60 per cent of board members be of the same gender.
He also recommended the new board serve a special one-year term focused on improving the organization’s governance and safety across the sport.
The clock is already ticking.
“Trust won’t be rebuilt overnight,” Fraser said. “But Canadians should know that the new leadership at Hockey Canada is very committed to getting it right.
“We have every confidence that we will be able to do so.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2022.
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