Hockey Canada’s board of directors called an emergency meeting Thursday night under mounting pressure from top corporate sponsors, political leaders and provincial organizations stemming from the group’s apparent unwillingness to address its handling of alleged sexual assaults.
Two provincial organizations are calling for resignations, with Hockey Manitoba stating that there needs to be “a change in Hockey Canada’s leadership,” and Hockey Nova Scotia saying it has “lost confidence in Hockey Canada’s senior leadership.”
Hockey Nova Scotia also confirmed it has cut off its funding to Hockey Canada for the 2022-23 season.
Since the news came out that registration fees for Hockey Canada helped to pay for a multimillion-dollar settlement to address sexual assault allegations, the organization has been taking heat.
But Hockey Canada firmly rejected changing the leadership earlier this week, despite calls for action.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Thursday that if the national hockey governing body continues to resist calls to address its handling of sexual assault claims and funding, the organization could be replaced.
“It is inconceivable that folks at Hockey Canada continue to dig in. It’s not like there’s something extraordinarily special about the people at Hockey Canada, that means they are the only people in the country that can run an organization like this,” Trudeau said. “There needs to be wholesale change. They need to do it. They need to realize that if we have to create an organization—get rid of Hockey Canada and create an organization called ‘Canada Hockey’ instead, people will look at doing that.”
TSN, which will be hosting the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship in Atlantic Canada, is also calling for action.
The sports broadcaster, owned by CTV’s parent company Bell Media, is urging “Hockey Canada to enact meaningful change to deliver a hockey environment built on a culture of respect.”
Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who said he was subjected to years of sexual abuse by a coach while playing with the Swift Current Broncos, said it’s obvious Hockey Canada can’t continue this way.
“The picture is clear that the organization as a whole and its leadership has lost the trust and support of not just citizens in Canada, but all of its corporate sponsorship,” Kennedy said.
While some sponsors initially halted their support when allegations surfaced this summer, including BDO and Esso Canada, here are the corporate sponsors who have recently confirmed pulling their support or maintaining their pause, as the controversy continues to unfold. Here’s what those sponsors have said about their decisions:
“After careful consideration, Canadian Tire Corporation has made the decision to end its partnership with Hockey Canada. In our view, Hockey Canada continues to resist meaningful change and we can no longer confidently move forward together. CTC is proud of our commitment to sport and will continue to invest in our beloved national game by re-directing support to hockey-related organizations that better align with our values. The Respect Group, which is focused on preventing bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination, is one of many organizations where funds will be diverted. We are committed to supporting hockey and sport that is inclusive and safe for all Canadians,” said Canadian Tire Corporation Senior Vice President of Communications Jane Shaw in a statement on Oct. 5.
“We’ve communicated to Hockey Canada on many occasions that the organization needs to take strong and definitive action before it can regain the faith and trust of Canadians. We’re deeply disappointed in the lack of progress that Hockey Canada has made to date. We officially informed Hockey Canada this week that we have pulled out of all men’s hockey programming for the 2022-23 season including the men’s world junior championships. We continue to fund Canada’s women’s and para hockey teams, as well as youth hockey,” said Tim Hortons media relations in a statement on Oct. 5.
“We can confirm that Chevrolet Canada has stepped back from its sponsorship activities with Hockey Canada as we seek more clarity on what specific steps the organization has and will take following the alleged incidents of abuse. We at GM have no tolerance for abuse of any kind and wish to see Hockey Canada return to setting a positive example for all Canadians in all it does,” said GM Canada Executive Director of Communications Jennifer Wright in a statement on Oct. 6.
“Our sponsorship pause of Hockey Canada remains in effect. Principally, this means a continued pause of our support for men’s hockey throughout the entire 2022/2023 season including the upcoming World Junior Championship. In our open letter in June, we publicly called on Hockey Canada to hold the game to a higher standard and we are disappointed with the lack of progress to date. From Hockey Canada, we expect a tangible commitment to transparency with Canadians, strong leadership, accountability with their stakeholders and the hockey community, and improved safety both on and off the ice. Ultimately our position hasn’t wavered: the time for change is long overdue,” said Scotiabank media relations in a statement on Oct. 5.
“We are deeply disheartened by the lack of action and commitment from Hockey Canada to drive necessary cultural change. TELUS will not be sponsoring Hockey Canada’s men’s hockey programs for the 2022-23 season, including the upcoming World Juniors tournament. We remain passionate fans and supporters of the sport of hockey and stand committed to enabling systemic change to make hockey safe for all,” said Telus media relations in a statement on Oct. 6.
SKIP THE DISHES
“Like many Canadians, we have been deeply troubled by recent allegations, and as such have since terminated our partnership with Hockey Canada,” said a Skip The Dishes spokesperson in an email to CTV News on Oct. 6.
“Empire has been a proud sponsor of the Women’s National Hockey team for a number of years. When our contract with Hockey Canada expired at the end of June, we chose not to renew our sponsorship because we were disgusted by all of the allegations and, as importantly, Hockey Canada’s unwillingness to make meaningful change to earn back the trust of Canadians and ensure everyone feels welcome and safe when playing the sport. We fully intend to continue to support the Women’s National Hockey team and are currently exploring options that will allow us to do that directly, without any connection to Hockey Canada,” said Sobeys media relations in an email to CTV News on Oct. 6.
With files from CTV News’ Kevin Gallagher
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