The reputation of the organization that oversees hockey across the country has been damaged since the spring. Gang rape allegations embarrass the 2018 and 2003 editions of the Canada Junior Team. Hockey Canada is also in the hot seat for trying to sweep these stories under the rug with a costly settlement with an alleged victim.
In an attempt to raise the bar, an action plan, which was announced by Hockey Canada at the end of July, relies on better training for players, coaches and volunteers as well as the establishment of a reporting and follow-up of complaints.
However, across Canada, guidelines from Hockey Canada are pending. So much so that local initiatives are starting to spring up from one end of the country to the other.
In the QMJHL, commissioner Gilles Courteau announced his own plan last week to ensure that he would not find himself in hot water if similar events occurred.
If he affirms that his major junior circuit is independent and does not need Hockey Canada’s approval to put his plan into action, Gilles Courteau nevertheless admits to having had no news from the national federation:
None! We had no direction from Hockey Canada.
The same goes for the head coach of the Fredericton Caps, in the New Brunswick-Prince Edward Island AAA junior league, Éric Bissonnette:
Directly from Hockey Canada, is there a concrete plan? The answer would be no.
However, he adds that at the local level, several initiatives and training courses are available.
Our organization, we try to educate them […] to give them the ability to understand and make the best decisions in the future.
In Ontario and in the west of the country too, the proposals are numerous, almost always at the local level.
A situation that shows too well the lack of will of Hockey Canada, according to the co-founder of Quebec against sexual violence, Mélanie Lemay.
In my eyes, they were more in public image management mode, rather than taking responsibility and ensuring that, really, there was recognition of the seriousness of the situation.she says.
On several occasions since the controversy began, she has mentioned that until Hockey Canada releases the names of the players implicated in the gang rape allegations, the organization cannot be taken seriously and hockey culture will remain toxic. .
Hockey Canada participated in hiding these events by signing a check. It’s an unparalleled level of violence. It’s an incredible demonstration of boys’ clubshe adds.
The Montreal Canadiens, an example to follow?
Mélanie Lemay draws a parallel with another scandal in the hockey world, a year before the earthquake that shook Hockey Canada.
When Logan Mailloux was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, we contacted the organization to [lui] explain why it was a bad message that was sent to the populationshe says.
She found an attentive ear in the team. The Sainte-Flanelle action plan proved effective for Logan Mailloux, found guilty of a sex crime in Sweden when he was a minor.
The support that Logan Mailloux received is the support we would like for all the people who have committed these actions.
After meeting the now 19-year-old defenseman, Mélanie Lemay says he’s the perfect example of what you can accomplish when you use all the resources at your disposal. But above all, she believes that the attitude of the senior management of the Montreal team is in total opposition to that of Hockey Canada.
She insists :
Hockey Canada must [encore] recognize gravity [de la situation] and clearly name the players who have taken advantage of this system. Otherwise, they become accomplices to criminal acts.
She goes on to say that on the side of the Habs, we are completely elsewhere.
» I think they are interesting allies in making sure that the truth around Hockey Canada is known, since they lead by example. »
The front line, the coaches
Éric Bissonnette, himself a former QMJHL player, coaches young players under the age of 18 at the junior AAA level, in Fredericton, New Brunswick. According to him, the situation with Hockey Canada is more than delicate, but he finds that people are very quick to condemn the organization. He hastens to add:
Of course, what happened is unacceptable!
He sincerely believes that things can improve and that it is on the front line that things happen. Coaches are a key part of improving hockey culture, he said.
» As a coach, if you’re there just to play hockey, you’re in the wrong business! »
For him, the role of coach is much more important than just making lines, leading practices and telling a player to jump on the ice.
We must be there as a psychologist, as a guide, as a trusted person, he lists. We really wear many different hats. We are in 2022, times have changed.
He ends by saying that more help would be appreciated.
It is our duty to guide and help them. Is it easy? No. Could we have more tools to do this? The answer is yes. But I think we’re headed in the right direction.
Hockey Canada did not respond to our interview requests.