Our National Embarrassment
If you are Canadian and keep an eye on the news you have, more than likely, heard about Hockey Canada and the fallout after a women filed a $3.5 million lawsuit alleging eight hockey players, some members of the 2018 World Junior hockey team, sexually assaulted her.
It has also come to light that this is not an isolated incident and gang rape may be prevalent in junior hockey.
I have read in many news articles questioning how could this happen and for how long does this behaviour go back. It goes back a long way and it is very prevalent.
This story has brought up many memories for me when I played on the local junior hockey club. I was a local player playing on a team made up of mostly players imported from other areas of Canada and the United States.
The players were billeted to families in the area, many who were executives for the hockey team or associated with with the junior hockey team.
Many of the import players were decent young men. However many were not.
Most of the import players received special treatment from the teachers, community members and, especially, the team executive, managers and coaches.
Hockey was important to the community in the 1980’s. If you want young men to play their best you have to build their confidence. To say they got away with a lot is an understatement.
Because I was local I had friends I grew up with who were not involved in hockey. These were the people I hung around with most often. I didn’t get along with most players on the team. It was said, the only players that disliked me more than the opposition were my own teammates. Which was fine by me.
Hockey parties were arranged regularly, usually at a ‘safe’ house. They were often at a billets or executives house. Non hockey players were not invited. Every now and again one or two would show up and they usually got the shit kicked out of them. There was no shortage of alcohol and drugs and plenty of girls, mostly underage.
I went to enough hockey parties to know what went on. Most of my friends didn’t play hockey so our partying was done in the bush or beside the Columbia River.
This is the way group sex or assault happens:
Two of my good friends in high school; he was a good looking guy, smart in every way, good athlete, but not a hockey player, she was also a great student, pretty and athletic. They were an ideal couple, but, on again off again, like most couples at 16 or 17. She had a crush on one of the hockey players, he was a good looking guy, but a complete asshole. He was scouted and came here with another two of his buddies from another part of Canada. They were decent hockey players, full of confidence and yappy.
On one of this couple’s ‘off again’ moments, she went to a hockey party and hooked up with her crush, got drunk, went to a room to spend time with him, before the door closed he invited his two buddies to come in with him.
She was the talk of the dressing room at the next practice.
That is how it happens. And it happened all the time.
My friends, the couple, withdrew, become close, once graduated they moved away, married and started a life together. They distanced themselves from their hometown and old friends.
This was the 1980’s. There was no laws covering consent of intoxicated individuals.
A couple years after I finished playing junior hockey an incident occurred. Three players of the hockey club, players who were my teammates years earlier, and still played for the team, raped a teenage girl.
They were charged and went to court. One after another, the hockey executive got up, and said what upstanding young men they were. As for the girl, she was drunk, she couldn’t remember everything. Although she had bite marks on her back and was torn up internally, the young men got off. The male judge ruled that she liked rough sex. My mother, who accompanied the young women to court along with the doctor who examined her were outraged. The young men were exonerated, went on to become respected members of the community, while the girl was labeled a slut.
This happens in Canada because we put these young men on a pedestal. Hockey is our national game. We revere the players and they know it. It excuses some of them from being decent human beings. They get a pass from morality and education from an early age providing they can dangle with the puck or dish it out physically on the ice.
What has to happen?
The executive of Hockey Canada has resigned. This is good. Instead of a group who’s job it is to protect or apologize, they should be required to make moral choices regarding all players enrolled in Hockey Canada.
In the past Hockey Canada executive used minor hockey enrolment income to settle sexual abuse claims. They did this because these funds, and use, was unlikely to be questioned, unlike an insurance claim or sponsor donations. The people who made these decisions were rightfully let go.
The next thing that has to happen, and this is a big one, the eight players involved in the alleged rape have to step up, admit that it was them that has given Canadian Hockey a bad name. At least some of these players would be newly minted millionaires playing in the NHL, so this is very unlikely to happen. If they are innocent of any wrong doing they should be chomping at the bit to be exonerated.
Finally, the police or RCMP have to pursue the sexual assault case. Even if the young women was paid $3.5 million for her silence, if a crime was committed it must be investigated.
I took my young grandchildren to the rink this morning to play hockey. It is a wonderful game, one you can play from the time you can walk to the time you can’t walk. It is special, filled with emotion, thrills and letdowns. My son, when he was small, used to sleep in his hockey equipment after his practices. The game means a great deal to our family.
But if you didn’t know the game, like many parents, or like newly immigrated parents why would you ever want your children to become involved in hockey?
If we want to continue to be proud of our national game. If we want it to be inclusive to all Canadians, new and old, male and female, It is essential we rebuild its reputation.