NHL must do more than ‘monitor’ child abuse allegations against Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini

The National Hockey League has 32 franchises. These franchises are the cornerstone of the league. The owners represent these franchises, the link that unites a city to the team and to the sport. So when news surfaces that casts a negative light on one of these owners? Theoretically, it’s a matter the league should take seriously, out of moral decency or, if you’re being cynical, out of self-preservation as well.

Especially when we’re not talking about the occasional hearsay or light-hearted accusations thrown around on social media.

No, the allegations made against Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini in testimony in Vancouver Family Court on Tuesday are not only serious and serious, but sworn in written affidavits from his own adult children.

According to a CBC News report, a BC Supreme Court judge has heard allegations from his four children that he physically and psychologically abused them when they were young. Affidavits describing the abuse have been submitted to the court. The children’s testimony was part of a hearing to determine whether Aquilini should be required to extend child support and help three of his four children with college expenses.

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As Gary Ross, Aquilini’s public relations representative, told Sportsnet, Aquilini « categorically denies » the accusations made by his children and ex-wife Tali’ah.

Tali’ah Aquilini’s lawyer, Claire Hunter, read aloud excerpts from a letter sent to Aquilini by her eldest daughter in March 2020 on behalf of her younger siblings.

“Your relationship with us is a direct result of your treatment of us, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. We all have many individual accounts of your abuse of us,” she wrote, as the report highlights. CBC News: « I would like to formally state that I and my siblings … do not wish to have any contact with you, nor would we want you to have access to our contacts, medical information, or other information regarding our lives. « 

Nothing has been proven in court. In fact, this ongoing court case has nothing to do with and will not pass judgment on whether or not Aquilini abused his children. On the contrary, this case is only about financial support. At the very least, it’s fair to say that these allegations are disturbing and serious.

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The NHL responded Wednesday, essentially saying: Hey, let’s keep an eye.

“We are aware of the allegations that have been made in the family court proceedings in Vancouver and have been in contact with Mr. Aquilini and his lawyers in this regard. Obviously, the parties were involved in a most controversial divorce. Mr. Aquilini has informed us that he categorically denies the allegations. We plan to continue to monitor the situation and, if necessary, will respond as we learn more as events unfold,” an NHL spokesperson said in a statement.

Which begs the question: how serious must the accusation be for the NHL to deem it “necessary” to launch its own investigation into the matter? What is the response threshold?

More precisely: what harm is there in opening an investigation? If the allegations are unfounded, so be it.

When Evander Kane was accused of betting on hockey games – by his wife in an Instagram post – the NHL responded to the allegations within hours via its own Twitter account and immediately launched an investigation into Evander Kane’s behavior. Kane with the help of integrity from a third-party company. betting services and monitoring.

« The integrity of our game is paramount and the league takes these allegations very seriously, » the NHL said.

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As nuggets of information continued to accumulate regarding Hockey Canada’s mishandling of an anonymous woman’s allegations of sexual assaults by eight members of Canada’s 2018 World Juniors team, the NHL announced during of the 2022 draft that she was launching her own investigation into the matter. .

So there is recent precedent in which the NHL reacted decisively to serious accusations involving its own members. It did not require a critical mass of evidence. In these cases, the NHL participated by helping collect more evidence.

And yet, when an owner is accused on affidavit by his own children of having abused them? The answer cannot simply be to “monitor” the situation.

It’s as if the NHL learned nothing from the Blackhawks scandal a year ago, in which case Chicago covered up the sexual abuse of player Kyle Beach at the hands of then-video coach Brad Aldrich . The NHL has refused to launch its own investigation, leaving it to the Blackhawks, who for months have flatly denied wrongdoing and tried to throw the case out in court, saying the allegations « lack merit ».

That’s basically what the NHL is saying here. trust us. « Mr. Aquilini informed us that he categorically denies the allegations. So if he says so, it must be true? That’s what the Blackhawks said. They were ultimately fined 2.5 million dollars by the NHL, paid far more than that in a settlement at Beach, and the organization was forced to clean up in the wake of the scandal.

I don’t have a clue whether the allegations against Aquilini ring true or false. It’s not my job. But I have no misunderstanding about them gravity.

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For me, it doesn’t matter if there is a financial incentive on the side of his children; If you claim your own father did such heinous things, you are aware of the long-term consequences an investigation could have. So you are serious about what you claim. And that alone should be grounds for the NHL to launch its own investigation.

Aquilini represents the NHL in Vancouver. The Canucks franchise, as much as it is a business, is also a public trust. It’s not a good idea for the NHL to dismiss the allegations as a collateral part of a « most controversial divorce. » This connotes the idea that the league gives more latitude to its billionaire owners than to its millionaire players. This makes it clear that the owners are who the league works for, not the other way around. And it’s a balance of power that the NHL has always seemingly misunderstood, as their counterparts in the NFL and NBA don’t get it wrong in letting owners know who holds the hammer.

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