The Neepawa Natives hockey team is working to change its image after last year's hazing scandal.

Members of the team in Western Manitoba have been serving coffee in a local restaurants in an effort to bolster its community ties and support.

Players are also visiting schools in the area, while coaching staff meets with sponsors and area businesses.

The Natives is a community-owned team, financially supported by many local businesses and the Town of Neepawa. Some sponsors pulled support after the hazing allegations came out and made national headlines last fall.

Neepawa, a town of about 3,300, is one of the smallest communities in the country to have its own junior hockey team.

Water bottles tied to genitals

The parents of a 15-year-old player came forward with the hazing accusations in October, saying that their son was forced to dance in the team's dressing room and drag around water bottles tied to his genitals.

Seven rookies in all were subjected to similar treatment, the parents claimed, adding that players were rated by the older players.

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League investigated the complaints and eventually suspended 16 Natives players, including the team captain and three assistant captains. The MJHL said the incident took place on the week of Sept. 26.

The team was also fined $5,000, one of the coaches resigned, and the player who first reported the incident was traded to a team in the U.S.

In late October, the MJHL announced it was reopening its investigation after getting more information. The league appointed a special, independent investigator to look into the matter.

MJHL commissioner Kim Davis told CBC News on Tuesday that the league will likely have an announcement to make about that investigation next week.

Hazing awareness

As part of the Natives' image makeover, a local committee has been formed to educate the public and provide guidance to those exposed to hazing.

The team is holding a fundraiser with money going towards hazing awareness and prevention.

"If you focus on the problem, the problem is going to stay. But if you focus on the solution, that's how problems are solved," community volunteer Kevin Harris, who is heading the committee, stated in a news release.

"If we show everybody (around the league and in the national media) the community is behind this team again, I think that's an important thing."