The Current

Hockey Canada 'absurd' in its continued resistance to leadership change, observers say

Calls for change at Hockey Canada are reaching a crescendo, after months of controversy.

Comments to Heritage Committee reveal a 'level of institutional arrogance': investigative writer

Hockey Canada continues to defend itself despite paying out nearly $9 million to 21 complainants of sexual misconduct since 1989. Major sponsors have pulled their support of the embattled organization. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

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Katie Strang says she was "baffled" by Hockey Canada's tone amid its handling of sexual assault allegations and resistance against changes in leadership.

"There really seems to be a lack of reflection about why people are so upset about not just the 2018 allegations themselves, but the way in which Hockey Canada has responded," Strang, senior investigative reporter for The Athletic, told The Current's Matt Galloway.

Hockey Canada has faced calls for leadership changes since May, when the organization reached a settlement with a woman alleging she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of Canada's 2018 world junior team.

Those calls have reached a crescendo recently when it was revealed that Hockey Canada put player registration fees toward a second fund "for matters including but not limited to sexual abuse," according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Hockey Quebec severed ties with the organization, and the Ontario Hockey Federation re-sent a formal request to Hockey Canada to not collect player fees from its members for the current season.

Several sponsors have also pulled out of funding for the 2022-23 season, including Tim Hortons, Telus, Scotiabank and Canadian Tire.

Strang said this is a "really significant development."

"From a symbolic point of view, I think it really shows that Canadian communities and Canadian corporations have a much different feeling about Hockey Canada and how it has handled this entire scandal than Hockey Canada itself views the issue," she said.

'Institutional arrogance'

Earlier this week, Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge said mass resignations at Hockey Canada are needed to restore public trust in the organization.

But speaking to the House of Commons Canadian Heritage committee on Tuesday, Andrea Skinner, Hockey Canada's interim chair of the Board of Directors, said Hockey Canada will not make any managerial changes.

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Strang called the statement "absurd" and said it reveals a "level of institutional arrogance."

"National governing bodies like Hockey Canada or USA Hockey, they're bolstered by the tireless work of volunteers, parents, members," she said.

"So I think for an executive, a chair, to suggest that [hockey] could be in jeopardy because [of] who is in power at a very remote level just really shows a level of institutional hubris that we have seen consistently from this organization."

Brenda Andress, the former commissioner of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, said this testimony is "hurting Hockey Canada and all hockey across Canada."

"Lights will go on because of the phenomenal people who currently are all the grassroots programs that are running minor hockey at that lower level," she told Galloway.

"I don't know anybody out there that has top leadership that would say, 'Oh my God, if we lost this person, the whole place falls apart.'"

Andress said it doesn't make sense for Hockey Canada to continue to drag this crisis along. She said now is the time for the organization to take responsibility and "do what's right for the 90 per cent of all the individuals involved in hockey who have had nothing to do with this."

Hockey Canada's next board election is also scheduled to occur at the annual meeting in November 2022.

"We, the people that have those opportunities to change that board at that particular time, need to step up to the plate and change that board in November, and make sure that the people they put on that board have what is best for hockey moving forward with a new vision," said Andress.

With files from CBC News and The Canadian Press. Produced by Idella Sturino, Enza Uda, Niza Lyapa Nondo and Paul MacInnis.

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