Hockey Canada CEO and Board of Directors to Step Down Amidst Sexual Assault Scandal

            Hockey Canada’s Board of Directors and CEO Scott Smith have stepped down amidst criticism over how they have handled sexual assault allegations [1]. The organization announced the resignations today after numerous major sponsors of the program pulled out last week and vowed to not support Hockey Canada until changes are made to the culture and leadership of the program. Pascale St-Onge, Canada’s minister for sport, had warned the executives they needed to leave Hockey Canada before they “burned it to the ground [2].”

            These developments stem from the May revelation that Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit with a woman who allegedly was sexually assaulted by eight players from the country’s 2018 men’s junior national team [3].

The latest company to pull out of its sponsorship with Hockey Canada was Bauer, which was previously the equipment provider for the program. “The allegations against and continued and repeated breach of trust by Hockey Canada’s leadership are extremely disturbing and warrant change. We have lost confidence in Hockey Canada’s leadership.” Bauer CEO Ed Kinnaly and vice-president of global marketing Mary-Kay Messier said in a statement Tuesday [4]. The company will continue to supply equipment to the women’s programs, but until Hockey Canada and its incoming new leadership show something concrete to demonstrate their willingness to change the current dynamic of the program, Bauer and other key sponsors will not be willing to do any business with the program. Nike has also suspended its relationship, noting they will “continue to monitor the situation and await more information regarding Hockey Canada’s actions to address the findings in these investigations and create a safe environment for all athletes [5].”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the decision represented “an important step forward,” but added there is a lot of work to do for the organization to facilitate a cultural change to gain the public’s trust again. Canadian leadership is now determined to reform sport in Canada so that every organization that the government finances will become more transparent and more accountable so nothing like this ever happens again. Parents save money for months to register their kids in these programs, and the fact that these allegations of sexual violence and sexual abuse were handled so poorly, but also with the complete lack of financial transparency, is very disturbing [6]. Canada is considered the birthplace of ice hockey, and Canadians generally regard the sport as their own. To have the program that unites all young Canadians tarnished is an extremely shameful thing for those who are responsible.

The stepping down of the current leadership is a good first step, but the organization has a very long way to go to reform the culture of Hockey Canada. It will be interesting to see the actions they take in the near future to attempt to rectify this situation, all I know is it probably can’t get any worse from here.

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