Calls grow louder for leadership change at Hockey Canada

Hockey Canada is facing mounting pressure to make leadership changes over its handling of sexual assault allegations against players.

Sponsors have withdrawn support and provincial hockey organizations are taking stronger stances on calls for an overhaul after Hockey Canada continued to defend its actions in parliamentary hearings earlier this week.

In Manitoba, the sport’s provincial body issued a statement Thursday which reads: “Hockey Manitoba’s board of directors support the call by Members of Parliament for a change in Hockey Canada’s leadership at the senior staff level and board of directors.”

“Further, Hockey Manitoba calls for a review of the Hockey Canada Action Plan to include consultation from experts or organizations working in education, awareness and prevention of sexual violence, abuse, bullying, and discrimination.”

It’s a shift from the position of Hockey Manitoba’s executive director Peter Woods two months ago.

“I have the utmost confidence in Hockey Canada,” Woods told CTV News Winnipeg on Aug. 8. “They’ve already established or reached some of the things that they’ve said are actionable within the action plan.”

Hockey Manitoba said it’s not commenting any further at this time.

“This whole situation involving Hockey Canada and its leadership is a self-inflicted wound on the part of Hockey Canada,” said Greg Gilhooly, an author and sexual assault survivor.

The organization has faced criticism for its handling of sexual assault allegations brought forward in a lawsuit by a woman against some members of the 2018 World Junior hockey team and the use of player registration fees to settle court cases, including sexual abuse claims.

Gilhooly sees no issue with compensating victims through settlements but finds the lack of a full investigation into the alleged assault troubling.

“Hockey Canada showed the absolute best in compensating the victim,” Gilhooly said. “Hockey Canada showed the absolute worst in shutting down an investigation and effectively wanting this just to go away.”

It comes as major sponsors continue to withdraw support for Hockey Canada, with Nike being the latest to suspend its partnership.

Gilhooly feels they’re sending a clear message.

“The lessons leadership should teach are accountability and standing up in the face of bad behaviour and calling out and investigating bad behaviour and that’s why people are upset and parents and sponsors are saying, ‘Look, I don’t want anything to do with that.”

Multiple provincial hockey federations across the country have said they plan to withhold player participation fees from Hockey Canada. 

Hockey Manitoba has not made such an announcement.

The mayors of Moncton and Halifax said in a statement they are deeply concerned about Hockey Canada’s lack of judgement and professionalism and are looking forward to meaningful change prior to the World Junior Hockey Championship taking place in their cities.

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