Executives of the Canadian Junior Hockey League are answering difficult questions about the hazing and allegations of extreme abuse in hockey culture. Canadian Hockey League President Dan Mackenzie insists that the culture of silence within the sport is no longer acceptable.
These allegations came to light in sworn affidavits given by former junior hockey players that were submitted to an Ontario Supreme Court as part of ongoing litigation. In the affidavits, players alleged that they were physically assaulted to the point of being tortured, and in some cases, sexually assaulted. The allegations level blame for the various assaults at both team members and team staff.
Both the Ontario and Quebec Major Junior Hockey Leagues have recently announced that there will be new sensitivity training programs put in place for both organizations as part of Hockey Canada’s ongoing struggle to respond to both these new allegations as well as those that came before. Bryce Swan a former member of the Amherst Rumblers and Halifax Mooseheads had said the was not hazed, however, he has heard stories of some incidents. Swan says that he was exposed to strong leadership in hockey referring to former Mooseheads owner Bobby Smith who had helped create a safe hockey environment.
These recent allegations of hazing and extreme abuse have come forward three years after former NHL player Dan Carcillo joined a group of ex-junior hockey players that allege they endured hazing, bullying, and abuse from their teammates, team staff and billet families. Carcillo played for the OHL’s Sarnia Sting back in 2002 when he was 17 years old. During this time, Carcillo, along with 12 other Sting rookies allege they suffered from what felt like constant abuse the entire 2002-03 hockey season. A 46 page statement of claim issued in the Carcillo matter makes reference to significant abuses, including the following quote:
“During showers, rookies were required to sit in the middle of the shower room naked while the older players urinated, spat saliva and tobacco chew on them…”
And according to the claim: “At least once, the head coach walked into the shower room while this was occurring, laughed and walked out.”(1)
The Carcillo matter, initially framed as a class action lawsuit has not been granted approval to proceed as such but the court has suggested that the allegations made within the proposed class action could take an alternate path or paths forward.