Hockey Redux– and not the ones in Anaheim

Come on boys.

Does it all come down to money?

According to Derek Montague in today’s The Saturday Huddle it sure does:

“When Dylan Guenther scored during 3-on-3 overtime to give Canada another World Junior gold, Scotiabank Centre in Halifax erupted in celebration. Another thing that erupted was the city’s downtown economy. After the thrilling win, many Halifax hockey fans went out for post-game drinks, or simply stayed longer at the bar where they were watching the game. What a bonus that one goal by a 19-year-old gave to bars and restaurants Thursday night. What do you think a typical bar would look like during a weeknight in early January? Guenther made sure it would be atypical for all the right reasons.”

Saltwire’s Thinking Out Loud’s host Sheldon MacLeod lobbed sponge pucks at Paul MacKinnon of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.  MacKinnon said the biggest headaches were parking, the city dispensing parking tickets “which really sucks” to those parked illegally, the importance of “full houses” and that (regretfully)  “scalping happens”.  Not a word about the decades-long toxic and criminal record of the Juniors’ sexual assaults. 

John DeMont’s column is not much better: In Thursday’s Chronicle Herald he swooned about

“The beauty of what elite athletes do, the miracle of strength, speed, timing and co-ordination that allows the best of them to achieve virtuosity amidst equally gifted opponents … And what about Sport is not real life: even the most hard-bitten fans know that.  Then again, we are not always looking for reality.”

John DeMont, Chronicle Herald, 5 Jan. 2023

DeMont can sure say that again. 

Excuse me. Isn’t there something missing here amid this fulsome, almost hysterical outpouring of adulation for hockey and its players? Back in September, wasn’t everybody talking, if only briefly, about a very ugly part of hockey culture? Weren’t there gang rapes involving Team Canada at the 2003 and 2018 Juniors? And weren’t 21 women paid millions of dollars for their silence about  other incidents? And didn’t all of that hand-wringing vanish once the 2023 Juniors began?

Well, almost.

“What’s a gang rape?” one child asked when he saw the leaflet

Nine days ago, a small group protested outside the Scotiabank Centre just before Team Canada vs Austria game.  We were protesting the rape culture alive and well, and largely ignored by Hockey Canada, by the police, or consistant  attention from the media.  We leafleted some of the 10,000 fans who lined up with their tickets to the game. Half the ticket holders offered the flyers refused to take a leaflet, half did.  Three quarters were men; some brought their wives or girlfriends, and some brought their pre-teen children.  Some of the children asked their parents, “What’s gang rape?”

Below: photo of our protest at Juniors hockey game on Dec. 29, 2022 when Team Canada played Austria

With the Juniors, the main idea has been “nothing to look at” and “move on.”  Really, of two gang rapes by members of Team Canada that have slipped out of the bag, one took place when the Juniors last played in Halifax in 2003.

In July 2022, TSN reported that there was a leaked video which showed seven to eight Juniors players in hotel room while one player raped an intoxicated (or drugged?) woman on a bed.  One man came forward to identify at least two players in the video. One was clearly holding the camcorder and recording 90 seconds of the assault. 

CBC’s Kate McKenna interviews Kathrin Winkler, who joined the protest outside Scotiabank Centre on Dec. 29, 2022

Team Canada members videotaped the 2003 rape as a ‘trophy’

“If the allegations in these cases were true and what we’re seeing in these cases is a form of male bonding ritual that is about the abuse of women … that is extremely, extremely disturbing,” said Dr Lise Gotell, a professor in the department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Alberta.  She noted that videotaping sexual assaults has become a “trend” – and the videos are used as a kind of “trophy”. 

So far— much to some fans’ relief — there is no named victim, and no Juniors’ hockey players have admitted to it.  But what we do know is that police lost interest early on, only to insist they are now – a decade later – investigating the crime.  We shall see.

One woman stopped me at the YMCA the other day to tell me it’s an open secret that one of the players (whom she named) was the ring leader in 2003.  I checked his scores, his record and his recent multi-million dollar five-year contract with an NHL team and realized it could have been him.

Below: image from this British site:

On a different level, we know Hockey Canada had its federal funding of $14 million in 2020 and 2021 frozen by Sport Canada because of the assaults  and Hockey Canada’s reluctance to seriously investigate them.   An infuriated federal Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said

“With the story itself that’s completely horrible, and the whole management of this situation that is totally inappropriate, I’ve decided to suspend any future public funding … “I cannot accept this standard as business as usual in our national sport organizations. And Canadians should not either.”

However, the esteemed Sports Minister decided to be mute during the Juniors tournament.

Short Memory of the fallout from Ghomeshi, Weinstein, & #metoo

For the 2023 Juniors, some businesses voted with their feet. Bauer, Tim Hortons, Nike, Canadian Tire, Telus, and Scotiabank, among other national and international brands, refused to advertise.  The millions of dollars in missing advertising revenue must have left games broadcaster TSN in the lurch – and there was likely a knock-on effect.

The thing I can’t get over is that after the infamous Jian Ghomeshi affair, after the shame of the CBC’s turning a blind eye to sexual harassment and worse by Ghomeshi, after Harvey Weinstein’s convictions, after the #metoo movement – the Canadian media are among those who continue to compliment and to salute the Hockey Juniors.

Below: bear mascot at downtown bar holds a protest sign, Dec. 29, 2022 (credit: Larry Haiven)

Halifax’s Mayor Savage was singing their praises, as were most of the councillors.  In the last day or so, the Mayor crowed that the Juniors Championship has delivered an injection of $50 million to HRM.

So it’s all worth it? What’s more, I for one would sure like to see the figures for proof!

Of the $8.9 million paid in settlements since 1989, Hockey Canada paid $6.8 million to the male victims of ex-coach Graham James, which left $2.1 million for the 21 women sexually assaulted. If each woman had been paid, it worked out to $100,000 each.
Top hockey draft picks earn about $6 million a year.

Meanwhile we know where there is smoke there is usually fire

  • Hockey Canada paid out $8.9 million in settlements to 21 sexual assault victims from 1989 to 2021.
  • Most of the money came from a portion of the $23.80 “insurance fee” levied by Hockey Canada on parents of hundreds of thousands of young Canadians enrolled in hockey.
  • The money went into Hockey Canada’s National Equity Fund, a secret fund used to pay some of the victims of sexual assault. 
  • Of the $8.9 million, Hockey Canada paid $6.8 million for the sexual assaults by coach Graham James against hockey legend Sheldon Kennedy and other players. and
  • That means that only $2.1 million of the funds were paid to all the women victims!
  • An unnamed woman victim was raped by least eight Team Canada players s in June 2018 at a fundraising gala and golf event in London Ont.  She filed a lawsuit for $3.5 million and settled for an undisclosed sum 

As columnist John DeMont pointed out in his homage to Team Canada, “we witnessed something special; all of that youth and talent, along with the transcendent moments they gave us.”

There seems to be a lot missing here.

How can Hockey Canada be cleaned up if – after the Team Canada victory — so few are paying attention.

Featured Photo: IIHF Victory party on Jan. 5, 2023 at the outdoor plaza at the Halifax Convention Centre (Discover Halifax).

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