New Brunswick

Hockey Canada scandal sparks questions over world juniors coming to Maritimes

Hockey Canada announced Tuesday its entire board of directors and CEO Scott Smith, who is originally from Bathurst, will resign. The overhaul comes as the sports organization faces widespread criticism over its handling of sexual assault allegations.

Moncton, Halifax scheduled to host international championship this winter

Hockey Canada's board and CEO will step down in response to public pressure over its handling of sexual assault allegations. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says a major shakeup in Hockey Canada leadership is a "step in the right direction," but not necessarily enough as the province considers cutting ties with the world juniors championship.

Hockey Canada announced Tuesday its entire board of directors and CEO Scott Smith, who is originally from Bathurst, will resign. The overhaul comes as the sports organization faces widespread criticism over its handling of sexual assault allegations.

Hockey New Brunswick said it considers the leadership changes a "positive step."

But Higgs told reporters at the legislature he still has questions about what changes will be made to processes and procedures, and he's reached out to colleagues in Nova Scotia.

"We'll learn more from Hockey Canada and decide from there if it's enough," he said.

Moncton and Halifax will host the world junior men's hockey championship, which is organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation, from Dec. 26, 2022, to Jan. 5, 2023.

New Brunswick is considering withdrawing its sponsorship of the event after Hockey Canada came under fire for revelations over its response to sexual assault claims. 

The governing body for hockey in Canada paid millions in cash settlements to complainants, and put player registration fees towards funds used to settle those claims.

Divided opinions

The scandal has prompted some leaders to reconsider whether the championship tournament should go ahead as planned.

The New Brunswick games are scheduled to take place at Moncton's Avenir Centre.

A city spokesperson said Mayor Dawn Arnold was not available for an interview.

In a joint statement last week with Halfax Mayor Mike Savage, they said they look forward to "meaningful changes" from Hockey Canada so the tournament can go ahead.

A hockey helmet with Canadian logo.
Hockey Canada paid millions in cash settlements to complainants, and put player registration fees towards funds used to settle those claims. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Craig Eagles, a Moncton-based hockey analyst and scout, said the event has been placed in an "unfortunate situation."

"So many people around Moncton and Halifax are so excited about the event and the organizing committees and all of the countless volunteers are working incredibly hard to pull this event off. It would be very, very unfortunate to see the event being pulled from those two cities. ... People are very upset and they're looking for someone to take action," he said.

Eagles hopes for the sake of both cities and the organizers that the world juniors will begin as scheduled.

"I just think about it being a tradition here --- a Canadian tradition."

The New Brunswick games are scheduled to take place at Moncton’s Avenir Centre. (Shane Magee/CBC)

St. Thomas University sociologist Kristi Allain thinks it would be "irresponsible" for the world juniors to go ahead. The kind of change required isn't possible in that time frame, she said.

"These athletes have been trained in a system that supports violence," she said.

"It would be best for everyone to step back and wait for real change while keeping the pressure on Hockey Canada and hockey in Canada."

The coach of the UNB women's hockey team says the world juniors tournament has "a big X through it right now."

Support for the normally big-ticket event has taken a dive, said Sarah Hilworth, in light of revelations Hockey Canada has been using player fees to compensate victims of sexual assault by junior players.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandre Silberman

Video journalist

Alexandre Silberman is a video journalist with CBC News based in Moncton. He has previously worked at CBC Fredericton, Power & Politics, and Marketplace. You can reach him by email at: alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

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