Hockey Canada needs to 'rebuild' trust with the country, Yukon hockey coach says

A Yukon hockey coach of 25 years says Hockey Canada has lost his respect and trust after its handling of sexual assault allegations surfaced last month.

Current executives, board members must resign before Hocket Canada can regain trust, coach says

Hockey Canada has been under fire for months over its handling of sexual assault allegations. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A Yukon hockey coach of 25 years says Hockey Canada has lost his respect and trust after its handling of sexual assault allegations surfaced last spring.

"In sport, family usually looks for trust in people that put their time forward toward skill development and growth of the sport in each community," said George Skookum, who coaches hockey in the village of Carmacks, about 170 kilometres north of Whitehorse.

"What Canada Hockey is doing, regarding the sexual abuse and paying off people, is just not right."

Skookum is referring to a lawsuit that Hockey Canada settled in May.

In April, a woman filed a lawsuit alleging that eight junior hockey players — including members of the 2018 world junior team — sexually assaulted her at a hotel in London, Ont., in 2018 while she was heavily intoxicated.

The lawsuit sought $3.55 million. The terms of the settlement are not public.

Hockey parents were outraged to later learn that a fund, made up in part with players' registration fees, was used to pay for that settlement.

The only thing that can be done to restore trust in the national organization is for the current executive and board members to resign, Skookum said.

"It's something that needs to be done," he said. "It's the only thing that will get things back in order within the organization."

On Saturday, after CBC News interviewed Skookum, Andrea Skinner resigned as a director and interim board chair of Hockey Canada.

Her resignation came days after a controversial parliamentary committee meeting, during which she defended Hockey Canada's handling of group sexual assault allegations involving past junior players.

Skookum hopes local hockey organizations in the Yukon also feel as though it is a time for a change.

"I imagine that this has been talked about at their tables," he said.

"Hopefully they will relay those messages out to the communities. We're fairly new in terms of restarting our hockey association but we definitely want to be a part of a new movement that will recognize the direction that we're supposed to be going."

Yukon following B.C.'s lead

The Yukon Hockey Association says it is a district of B.C. Hockey and follows its lead. 

B.C. Hockey posted a statement on its website saying there are many issues facing sport and sport governance, and they require collaborative steps toward solutions.

B.C. hockey says it is closely monitoring the input and decisions of other members of Hockey Canada.

Some provincial hockey federations, which collect fees on behalf of Hockey Canada, came out against the organization. Some took steps to halt the transfer of those fees.

Hockey Québec was the first provincial body to speak out against Hockey Canada, saying it has lost confidence in the national governing body. Other provincial hockey organizations have called for changes in leadership.

Hockey New Brunswick and Hockey N.L. are among the organizations halting the transfer of player fees to the national governing body. 

If local organizations are in support of Hockey Canada then a larger discussion needs to be had, Skookum said.

"Being a Canadian and recognizing the situation that Hockey Canada is in, and everyone in opposition — being sponsors or leaders of our governments — is definitely showing that we can work together to fix what needs to be fixed," he said.


Chris MacIntyre is a CBC reporter in Dawson City, Yukon.