Nova Scotia

Shaming of sexual assault survivor sparked X-Men, Axemen brawl, says player

A player and his coach say the shaming of a sexual assault survivor is what sparked an intense brawl between the two Nova Scotia university men's hockey teams during a game in Wolfville, N.S., on Saturday, but the other team disputes this.

Acadia's executive director of varsity athletics says allegation 'not consistent'

The brawl erupted during the third period of Saturday's game. (Submitted by Nick Bennett)

A player and his coach say the shaming of a sexual assault survivor is what sparked an intense brawl between the two Nova Scotia university men's hockey teams during a game in Wolfville, N.S., on Saturday, but the other team disputes this.

Sam Studnicka, a player with St. Francis Xavier University X-Men, and his coach, Brad Peddle, on Monday released statements about the fight with Axemen players from Acadia University.

Studnicka said a comment was made to him by a member of the Axemen during the third period of the game. He said he told Peddle, who addressed it with the on-ice officials and the head coach of Acadia.

Studnicka said he was "completely shocked" when minutes later the opposing player was sent to take a faceoff with him. 

The brawl started soon after.

​Studnicka did not identify the opposing player or the sexual assault survivor, or specify what was said. 

I am proud of the way my teammates stood up for me and for something bigger than hockey.- Sam Studnicka

He said in his three years playing hockey, he's faced similar "insulting and derogatory comments on the ice." 

"It has taken an emotional toll on me."

He said players from the Axemen team have "elicited repeated on-ice comments directed towards me" and that it "has been frustrating."

Acadia won the game 6-3.

A few videos of the fight were uploaded to YouTube.

WARNING: This video contains offensive language.

The videos show players from both teams grabbing at one another, throwing punches and hurling insults. 

One video shows a player from Acadia's team hitting people with his hockey stick from the bench. It also shows Peddle standing at the divider between the benches and yelling at the Acadia bench.

Studnicka said he was happy his teammates didn't let the incident slide.

"I am proud of the way my teammates stood up for me and for something bigger than hockey. This event shows that more education is still needed on this issue," Studnicka said.

"It is a serious societal issue, and we need more awareness and education on all levels so young men are aware of the implications of their words and actions." 

'Very avoidable'

Peddle said after 14 years of coaching at the university level, he doesn't approve of fighting in the league, but he defended his players for standing up for their teammate.

"That is more important than winning a hockey game. It is a testament to the character and integrity of the student-athletes in our locker room," Peddle said.

Peddle went on to say he believed the incident was "very avoidable" based on "repeated discussions about the situation."

"Supporting Sam has always been the top priority," Peddle said. "In this specific instance, our team took a stand to protect him from repeated, unnecessary insults that have no place in sport or the greater society."

'Not consistent' with allegation

Acadia University's executive director of varsity athletics says the school started its own investigation on Sunday and was in contact with Atlantic University Sport (AUS) on Monday. 

"The information we have gathered is not consistent with the allegations," made by St. Francis Xavier, Kevin Dickie told CBC News on Monday. 

Dickie said Acadia is participating in the AUS investigation, but considers the behaviour unacceptable "on numerous levels."

'Hear both sides'

AUS's men's hockey commissioner Dave McLean and executive director Phil Currie released a statement Tuesday saying they're "reviewing the numerous infractions which occurred in Saturday night's game."

A complete list of automatic suspensions will likely be released on Wednesday and will take effect immediately and be in place for a game scheduled for that day.

"On the whole, this egregious incident flies in the face of our regulations, our policies and our values," said Currie. "Our student-athletes are students first and, as such, our conference does not tolerate violence."

On Monday night, Currie​ told CBC News in a phone interview he thought it was important for Studnicka "to come forward and say his piece publicly."

"I applaud him for having the courage to do so, but that doesn't change the investigation we're pursuing in reference to the incident, and our commissioner will still do his work and look at all the issues related to the incident," Currie said.

Currie said the investigation will involve interviewing all the players and "natural justice properties and philosophies."

"It's important we hear both sides of each of these issues and then, from there, determine if we need more information experts or more information from other players, whatever the case may be," he said.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

With files from CBC's Paul Palmeter