Jack Todd: Change at Hockey Canada must come from the top

No one wants to see the people who got this national institution charged with cleaning up the mess into hot water.


There have always been stories. Back room, side of the mouth, smiling stories.

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Rude, crude, third and fifth hand tales. Unproven and unlikely, but still bouncing around in the echo chamber that is hockey culture.

This summer, the stories have emerged from the locker rooms and postgame drinks at team hotels and taken center stage. A person reading the sports pages might reasonably conclude that everyone connected to the game on the men’s side is out of control.

That’s not true (or we hope it isn’t), but the seedy underside of our national game has been on full display like never before, including the news last week that Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz has been indicted. in a lawsuit for allegedly paying a teenage dancer $75,000 for sex – a statement that both Katz and the dancer deny.

Then there is the mother of all hockey sex scandals, the Hockey Canada Eight and the decision made by hockey’s national governing body to pay the victim of an alleged gang sexual assault to settle a $3.55 million lawsuit and buy her silence on her behalf. raiders

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If the people who run Hockey Canada believed they could fight their way through this with another open letter of apology to Canadians, that belief was quickly shot down by a Globe and Mail story revealing the existence of a $15 reserve fund. million used to resolve cases of sexual abuse.

Given the number of Canadians who unknowingly contributed to this fund through registration and insurance payments for millions of young people, the revelations set off a storm from coast to coast. With the cost of the game already high, the news that some of Hockey Canada’s exorbitant charges may be funneled to the victims of suspected sexual abuse coaches and players was not well received.

Hockey Canada quickly responded by promising it would no longer use the fund to settle sexual assault claims, but things have reached the point where nothing the organization does is likely to win acceptance or forgiveness, no matter how many mea culpas come their way. from the head office.

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This is already the biggest scandal in Canadian gaming history and with each passing day, Hockey Canada executives sacrifice everything to stay in power, it gets worse. Last week, the organization jettisoned the 2003 junior world team as part of its increasingly frantic efforts to maintain the status quo at the top.

The group sexual assault allegations against the 2003 team are serious and need to be followed up, but they are no more serious than the 2018 ones that Hockey Canada ignored until it faced a lawsuit. New charges against another team are no reason to give CEO Scott Smith a long rein.

Given the utter lack of judgment, competence, and ethical standards on display since the beginning of this scandal, I wouldn’t trust Smith to run a bake sale for a peewee hockey fundraiser. Nor would he trust Smith’s predecessor, Tom Renney, the man who announced his resignation on April 20, the same day court documents detailing the charges in the 2018 case were filed in London.

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Renney has stated that “we resolved the claim quickly because we felt a moral obligation to respond to alleged behavior that occurred at one of our events by players who attended our invitation.”

A well-known attorney who has taken an interest in the case took issue with Renney’s statement: “That’s ridiculous,” he said. “Directors of a nonprofit organization are required to act in the best interests of the charity and undertake due diligence before paying claims. Acting out of a ‘moral obligation’ is not acting in the best interest of the nonprofit organization.”

(Whether Hockey Canada is in fact a non-profit organization is another of the myriad questions raised around this scandal. Like Soccer Canada, Hockey Canada has muddied the waters by creating multiple entities, in this case the Hockey Canada Foundation, itself a registered non-profit organization). profits, which is not Hockey Canada, although lack of transparency is an obstacle at all times).

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Hockey Canada’s unsigned “open letter” dated July 14 promises a review of its governance practices, but not a review of who actually governs. Therein lies the problem.

When this story first came to light, I contacted Hockey Canada seeking a more detailed response than the initial statement, which was nothing more than a evasion. The response I received was a copy of the statement, which was already public.

It was obvious then that obstructing was not going to work. It didn’t. Neither did subsequent “open letters,” testimony in Parliament, or anything else from Hockey Canada.

It won’t fly. No one wants to see the people who got this national institution charged with cleaning up the mess into hot water. Scott Smith has to go, along with everyone who was in the room the day the decision was made to make a large dollar payment to buy the silence of an alleged sexual assault victim.

Perhaps then we can start over with a highly capable CEO to reverse the toxic culture in hockey and begin the long and difficult task of reforming Hockey Canada.

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