Hamilton, Mississauga and Canadian fans dubious of Hockey Canada culture change amid sex abuse allegations
Published August 17, 2022 at 1:40 pm
The vast majority of Canadians, including Hamilton and Mississauga residents, have little confidence that sex abuse scandal-ridden Hockey Canada can change its ways without new leadership.
And the sentiment is largely uniform, regardless of whether someone is currently involved in youth hockey, participated in it, has a child playing, or has never taken part in Canada’s national winter sport. The Angus Reid polling firm released findings on Wednesday — hours ahead of Canada’s quarterfinal game against Switzerland at the world junior championship (WJC) in Edmonton — that show a majority of Canadians say sexual harassment and sexual assault are a major problem in youth hockey. Another 17 per cent believe it is a problem, but a minor one.
The polling also shows nearly 3-in-5 support for new senior leadership at Hockey Canada. Barely 1-in-4 people believe its present leadership can right the ship, and there is a commensurate lack of confidence in the action plan that it recently released.
The pollster also notes, “Those closest to the sport share this view.”
There is only a 5 per cent gap — in a poll with a 2 per cent margin of error — when it comes to people with a tie to youth hockey and those without one seeing sexual misconduct in hockey culture as a major issue (56% to 61%).
“Among this group, women of all ages are more likely to perceive a major problem compared to men in their same generational bracket. Men younger than 35 are least likely to agree,” Angus Reid says.
The scandal erupted this spring, after reporting from TSN and The Athletic about how Hockey Canada had never completed the investigation of gang sexual assault in London, Ont., in 2018 by players on that year’s WJC gold medal-winning team and players in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). The Liberal government froze $8M in federal funding, and several major sponsors cut ties.
Police in Halifax, N.S., are also investigating a gang sexual assault by members of the 2003 Canadian national junior team, which came to their and the public’s attention after a TSN report.
The response from Hockey Canada has included creating an action plan, subtitled, “Shatter the code of silence and eliminate toxic behaviour in and around Canada’s game.” It also commissioned former supreme court justice the Hon. Thomas Cromwell to lead a third-party governance review, and appointed Toronto lawyer and former U.S. college player Andrea Skinner as interim chair of Hockey Canada’s board of director. Skinner is the first woman to hold the position.
However, Angus Reid says that the most of the public are “not confident” the action plan will yield to any improvement. A majority of men — 53 per cent — are pessimistic, and so are 3-in-5 women, or 62%.
The response to that question also included a 52% “not confident” response from 497 people who had played, coached, or refereed youth hockey. (One thousand people is considered the minimum sample size by most pollsters.)
Call for leadership change
As well, the belief that Hockey Canada needs new senior leadership polls at 63 per cent. The strong response comes from people directly involved, at 69%.
The pollsters also found 80% support for the federal government freezing funding. Respondents who had a connection to youth hockey were nearly twice as likely to be following the story at least closely than those with no tie to the sport (58% to 31%).
The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Aug. 8-10, 2022 among a representative randomized sample of 2,279 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
A fulsome illustration of its findings and methodology is viewable at angusreid.org.
The scandal has overshadowed the two world championship tournaments which tend to draw the most public engagement in Canada, the WJC and the world women’s championship. Arena boards at the WJC, which was also moved to August due to being cancelled due to COVID-19 last winter, have not had corporate ads.
Team Canada, whose captain and leading scorer Mason McTavish plays for the Hamilton Bulldogs, is 4-0 in the tournament entering the knockout medal round. McTavish is the top scorer so far in the event with 13 points. The semifinals and gold-medal game are on Friday and Saturday.
Canada’s national women’s hockey team, which includes seven players from Hamilton and Halton Region, is also set to defend its gold medal at the worlds in Herning and Frederikshavn, Denmark, from Aug. 25 to Sept. 4.
The financial fallout from the scandal has creating vulnerability for women’s national team programs and the development of female hockey. But on July 25, hours after Hockey Canada released the action plan, the national women’s team released a statement about the ongoing investigations saying they “intend to be part of the fight for the truth.”
The seven local national teamers are Hamilton forward Sarah Nurse, Renata Fast and Emma Maltais of Burlington, Brianne Jenner and Kristin O’Neill of Oakville, Sarah Fuller of Georgetown and Victoria Bach from Milton.insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising