As we open the book on another NHL season, many hockey fans in the Hills may feel like me: massively conflicted — excited for a new season, but disgusted with the culture that comes with hockey: the misogyny, the entitlement, the blatant homophobia.
While my heart aches for more hockey, it breaks for all the sexual assault victims of the elite monsters who have tainted Canada’s game. If you’re a hockey fan and don’t know what I’m talking about, take five minutes and Google “Hockey Canada Sexual Assault” and you will see how dark our hockey history is. A woman alleges she was sexually assaulted by eight members of Team Canada following a Hockey Canada gala in London in 2018.
Since TSN broke that story in the spring, scores of separate allegations have surfaced, including a 2003 alleged incident in which roughly a half-dozen Team Canada hockey players were filmed taking turns having sex with a woman who was non-responsive during the World Junior Championships that year. So far, police have yet to lay charges in either case.
Hockey Canada executives told a House of Commons committee earlier this month that they paid $8.9 million for sexual abuse settlements to 21 complainants since 1989. That money came from the hockey organization’s “National Equity Fund,” which is basically money from hockey registrations.
Growing up, our family couldn’t afford hockey fees, so to make up for shortfalls, my hardworking, single mom would give up her evenings and volunteer at community bingos, funding drives and events so I could play. She told me this week that she is “disgusted” to learn that she spent countless hours volunteering so that some privileged predators could allegedly gang-rape a girl during a hockey tournament and get away with it.
Hockey Canada has silenced these victims with cash so their precious high draft picks can make it to the big leagues like they were promised. The most tragic part is that we all saw this coming and did nothing to stop it. We’ve all heard the macho, bravado stories from inside the dressing rooms: the “boys will be boys” mentality, which allows guys with talent to get away with things others wouldn’t. I’ve seen it firsthand.
I will spare you the horrific details of the things I saw and heard in the dressing rooms. I never returned to elite hockey after witnessing an awful hazing incident in the shower when I was 16. Coaches and team officials condoned this degrading and humiliating act. That was it for me.
But how do we change this culture when organizations like Hockey Canada and the NHL endorse it?
The Montreal Canadiens were the only team to draft sexual-assault-embattled Logan Mailloux, who was charged with secretly photographing an 18-year-old woman in a sexual act and sharing it with teammates without her consent. The Canadiens signed Mailloux to an entry-level deal two weeks ago, during the height of Hockey Canada’s scandal.
How will kids get the message if the NHL and Hockey Canada executives aren’t taking this seriously, how will kids get the message? If kids see their role models and heroes embracing this type of behaviour, it will never end. Maybe it’s up to fans like me to walk away from the game or parents to pull their kids out of the sport.
But how do you tell your child they can’t play the sport they love so much?
It needs to start from the top.
Your move, NHL.