As Hockey Canada's future seems murky, a women's hockey league that includes teams from Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond and Delta is calling for the resignation of top officials of the national governing body.
Hockey Canada has been under intense scrutiny since May when it was revealed it had settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight players from the 2018 junior men's team during a gala event in London, Ont., that year.
Among other revelations that followed was Hockey Canada's admission it drew on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.
Calls for leadership change at the embattled sporting body grew louder during parliamentary hearings in Ottawa this week.
Federal Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge said it's time to "clean the house" while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said "there needs to be wholesale change" within the organization.
In a statement Wednesday (Oct. 5), the South Coast Women's Hockey League (SCWHL), which includes the Burnaby Mountain Capitals, called for the resignation of Canada's Board of Directors and its CEO/President.
The nine-team league says it is concerned about the allegations made against the 2018 men's junior hockey team, as well as what they call a lack of proper investigation by Hockey Canada.
The SCHWL also raised concerns regarding a National Equity Fund used by Hockey Canada to allegedly settle misconduct claims.
“The leadership of Hockey Canada has done nothing to instill confidence among its members that real change will take place,” SCWHL president Rick Kupchuk said.
“How can the players, coaches, administrators and volunteers have any confidence in the board to address the issues the organization is facing, when the board chair refuses to acknowledge there are any issues to be dealt with?”
The league added there are concerned by reports that a percentage of player registration fees, including those of roughly 150 women playing in the SCWHL, were allocated to the equity fund.
Numerous major corporate sponsors involved with Hockey Canada have announced in recent days they are suspending or terminating support.
Canadian Tire Corp., a brand closely tied to Canada's hockey ethos, ended its partnership with Hockey Canada on Thursday.
"Hockey Canada continues to resist meaningful change and we can no longer confidently move forward together," Canadian Tire spokesperson Jane Shaw said in a statement on Thursday (Oct. 6).
The company will instead support hockey-related organizations that better align with the company's values of sport that is inclusive and safe for all Canadians, she said.
Telus Corp., Scotiabank, Esso and Tim Hortons — nearly synonymous with hockey in Canada — have all suspended support of the men's hockey programs for the 2022-23 season, including the upcoming world juniors tournament.
Chevrolet Canada paused its sponsorship in June, with its parent company General Motors saying it has "no tolerance for abuse of any kind."
Grocery retailer Sobeys chose not to renew its sponsorship contract with Hockey Canada when it expired in June.
"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," Karen White-Boswell, Sobeys director of external communications, said in an emailed statement Thursday.
The grocer continues to support the women’s national hockey team and is exploring options to do that "directly without any connection to Hockey Canada," she said.
Nike also announced on Friday (Oct. 7) that it has paused support for Hockey Canada, with a spokesperson saying the ongoing reports involving Hockey Canada are "significant and substantive."
The company will continue to monitor the situation and says it awaits more information about what Hockey Canada will do to support investigations into the sexual assaults.
- with files from The Canadian Press