Parents, players and advocates in all provinces are looking to their hockey organizations Wednesday after Hockey Quebec announced it will no longer send the $3 participant assessment fee for the upcoming season to Hockey Canada.
The Ontario Hockey Federation has asked Hockey Canada not to take the participant fees this year, however Global News has not received confirmation that the Ontario organization will be following in the same footsteps as its eastern neighbour.
Allegations of sexual assault involving the national organization first came to light in May.
While there is much outrage at the national hockey organization and many people, including Canada’s minister of sports Pascale St-Onge, are calling for a restructuring of the Hockey Canada’s higher-ups, still others are demanding change in action.
“If they continue to send money, that says to me that they agree with the things that Hockey Canada has done and continues to do. And as a parent, that’s where your money’s going — that says to me that you agree with it as well,” said Janise Sherman, a hockey player and mother with young kids in sport.
Garrett Nestorowitch’s three boys have all played hockey in the Edmonton area. He said hearing all the news about Hockey Canada over the past several months is concerning as a parent.
“I think all we want to know … about where the money’s going. I don’t know if we have those answers yet, I don’t know if we’ll get those answers. I hope we do… because players are getting paid X amount of dollars – we don’t know the amount that goes to Hockey Canada – but we’re obviously funding something through them, with them. We hope the money is going to places in good faith and to use for programs that are built to help these athletes play. We seem to just not know that right now,” he said.
Hockey Canada senior leadership officials spoke out Tuesday in a parliamentary committee meeting following allegations the organization was using funds for payoffs in sexual assault allegations dating back to 2018.
“One of the problems is that Hockey Canada is coming off as a little bit narrow-minded because they think that, you know, they want to be part of the solution. But people people’s expectations are different now about the amount of change that’s required and who can who can actually do that,” said Dan Mason, a sports management professor at the University of Alberta.
As for Quebec’s decision, “it’s a statement about the willingness to continue to support Hockey Canada more than it is a shake-up of the structure of the system itself,” Mason said. “I think Hockey Canada is already hurting financially, so it’s not going to hurt them financially so much as it’s sending a message that this is something that will not be tolerated at all, especially by a province of the size of Quebec.”
In Alberta, registration fees are collected by Hockey Edmonton and Hockey Calgary, respectively, with $23 of every registration going to Hockey Alberta, a percentage of which then goes to Hockey Canada.
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Kylee Quinn with Hockey Edmonton said the reallocation of fees is not something Hockey Edmonton has discussed as the organization is choosing to focus on how it can implement change at a local level.
“We can’t say that hockey is our national sport until everyone commits to change and we all feel safe and welcome. And so we want anyone who is considering playing hockey (to know) that they are welcome here, there is a space for them.”
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Hockey Edmonton has agreed to full transparency, Quinn said. And while they haven’t received any direction from Hockey Canada or Hockey Alberta, they’ve taken matters into their own hands to start implementing change on a local level.
“We firmly believe that everyone involved in the sport needs to have the tools to identify what harmful behaviour is, have avenues to challenge dangerous beliefs and actions and also have the skills to intervene and prevent abuse.”
This isn’t a problem that’s unique to hockey and it’s something we need to change around the globe, she added.
As a community, she said, we need to look at making the change to how we address these issues and implement educational programs on and off the ice.
Women’s rights advocates agree that having conversations around sexual assault at a national level is providing the opportunity for more conversations to happen at a local level.
“I think the thing that’s positive that’s coming out of this is just that additional conversation that we can have where we take these subjects that are really taboo and often can be kept in the darkness, and we’re bringing those out into the light and having those conversations,” said Jillian Shillabeer, leading change call to action coordinator with Alberta Council Womens Shelters (ACWS).
The ACWS works with sports teams to educate players on topics like sexual assault, consent, toxic masculinity and gender-based violence.
“That conversation is one that we are having with these young men who are playing in the NHL. We want to make sure that they really understand what it means to have consent and when consent is not possible,” Shillabeer said.
“So when there are situations of extreme intoxication, consent is not possible. That’s just simply the facts of the situation. And so we want them to understand that it’s not just ‘no means no’. It’s that yes means yes, meaning yes cannot happen in a situation where there’s coercion, where a person is not capable of making that response because either they’re intoxicated.”
Hockey Alberta and Hockey Calgary have yet to make a statement about their future plans with Hockey Canada. Global News reached out to both organizations but did not receive a response by time of publication.
— with files from Dan Grummet, Global News
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