Hockey Canada is under pressure to make significant leadership changes amid a widening scandal over how the organization has responded to reported cases of alleged sexual assaults.
The sporting organization has seen key corporate sponsorships withdrawn and sharp criticism from federal politicians, as it has so far resisted calls for a shift in its leadership ranks.
In recent months, Hockey Canada settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League players, including members of Canada’s world junior team, in London, Ont., in 2018.
But other allegations of hockey players being involved in group sexual assaults have since come to light, and it has been revealed that Hockey Canada has paid millions of dollars for sexual abuse settlements since 1989.
The CBC’s The Fifth Estate has reported that junior hockey players have been investigated by police for at least 15 alleged incidents of group sexual assault since 1989.
At the provincial level, two prominent organizations have disavowed Hockey Canada over its handling of the scandal.
Calls to reform the organization were renewed after a fresh wave of allegations were levelled against the embattled governing body. Some provincial hockey federations, which collect fees on behalf of Hockey Canada, came out against the organization, with some taking steps to halt the transfer of those fees.
Hockey Québec was the first of those provincial organizations to come out against Hockey Canada and said it has lost confidence in the national governing body, while others have called for changes in leadership.
Inside corporate boardrooms
Hockey Canada also faces pressure from corporate sponsors that have curtailed their financial support.
While some sponsors suspended or limited their sponsorships of Hockey Canada in the summer, when allegations against the organization first came to light, more brands have since come forward to publicly distance themselves from hockey’s governing body.
According to Hockey Canada’s website, sponsorships account for 27 per cent of its funding.
Canadian Tire, for example, appears to be permanently cutting ties with Hockey Canada, instead directing support “to hockey-related organizations that better align with our values.”
Tim Hortons, Telus Corp. and Scotiabank have all pulled men’s program funding for the upcoming season, but will continue to support women’s, para and grassroots programs.
Hockey Canada has also faced criticism from federal politicians, with Canada’s sport minister saying it is time for the organization to “clean the house.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said “there needs to be wholesale change” at Hockey Canada, and it’s possible a new organization could be created to replace it.