Hockey Scandal Engenders Police Apology, Blah Statements

Thom Weidlich 02.08.24

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This past week saw a major development in the long-running, nasty scandal in Canada concerning its national religion, ice hockey. Five professional players were charged with a 2018 sexual assault, and the police apologized to the victim for the case taking so long. The scandal has governing body Hockey Canada bruised and battered.

At a press conference Monday, the police chief in London, Ontario, apologized to the unnamed victim. “I want to extend, on behalf of the London Police Service, my sincerest apology to the victim, to her family, for the amount of time that it has taken to reach this point,” he said. The players were charged on Jan. 31.

In 2018, they were on Canada’s world junior hockey team, which that year won the world championship against Sweden. To celebrate that feat, they attended a Hockey Canada gala in London. They are accused of sexually assaulting the woman in a hotel room after that event. Lawyers for the accused, who all went on to play for professional teams from which they are now on leave, have denied the allegations.

Police Probe

The case has caused an uproar in Canada. The police probe that was opened in June 2018 was closed in February 2019 without charges being brought. The case was revived after TSN, the Canadian sports channel, reported in May 2022 that Hockey Canada had paid an undisclosed amount to the woman to settle a suit she’d brought.

Further reporting by other outlets uncovered that Hockey Canada had a slush fund from children’s membership fees that it used to settle $7.6 million in sex-assault claims, including this one, according to the AP. This caused a huge outcry and eventually the resignation of the entire Hockey Canada board and CEO.

Hockey Canada’s reputation is basically in tatters. It still needs to do a lot of work to restore its name. Back in 2022, the group reportedly adopted certain measures such as mandatory sexual-violence training for its players, coaches, employees and volunteers.

Celebrated Athletes

In a column Monday, the Toronto Star’s Rose DiManno lambasted how the case has been handled (including by the police) and wondered if — as often arises when celebrated athletes are involved — the players’ status had something to do with the delay. Sports organizations need to learn that celebrity is no excuse for not doing the right thing. We have a feeling the non-disclosure agreement as part of the settlement had something to do with this.

The scandal hasn’t given rise to inspired public statements. On Monday Hocky Canada posted, lamely, on X, “#HockeyCanada has cooperated fully with the London Police Service and we are committed to continuing to support the legal process.”

Katherine Henderson, the current CEO, commented on the recent developments. “Hockey Canada recognizes that in the past we have been too slow to act and that in order to deliver the meaningful change that Canadians expect of us, we must work diligently and urgently to ensure that we are putting in place the necessary measures to regain their trust, and provide all participants with a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment on and off the ice,” she said, according to USA Today.

We’ll see.

Photo Credit: dotshock/Shutterstock

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