On Tuesday, fans were outraged and quite frankly disgusted with the allegations reported by TSN’s Rick Westhead. Westhead shared the stories of alleged abuse, sexual and otherwise, harassment, and hazing in junior hockey that were detailed in affidavits filed in an Ontario Superior Court in Toronto on Monday by a dozen former Canadian Hockey League players.
We warn you once again, this contains extremely graphic content and language.
“Major-junior hockey players sodomized with hockey sticks covered in “liquid heat.” A group of teenaged rookies forced to masturbate and ejaculate on the same slice of bread, the last to do so forced to eat the bread. One player watched as rookies on his team were forced to have sex with prostitutes.
Players encouraged to fight teammates in practice. Players spat on, urinated on, defecated on. Rookie players forced to pick up the feces of older veteran players and throw it at other rookie players. Rookie players forced naked alongside a half dozen other naked teammates into a small washroom on the team bus, also known as the “sweat box.” Rookie players whipped with a belt by their teammates and coach.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
And while these hazing rituals have now been exposed, Dr. Jay Johnson, an associate professor in the faculty of kinesiology and recreation management at the University of Manitoba and a leading expert on hazing, initiations and rites of passage, tells the Hockey News that he is certain hazing still takes place today.
“Based on my research, the average Canadian Junior Hockey League player would have to be very lucky to avoid any of the above hazing rituals or other types of abuse, after playing in these leagues.”
Johnson went on to say, “Hockey hazing continues to this day with management fully aware of its presence. I continue to hear accounts of hazing from players who played in recent years. I understand that the OHL, QMJHL and WHL currently have ‘zero-tolerance’ policies for hazing, and have had such policies for at least the past several years. I do not have access to these policies, however, I have concerns regarding their effectiveness given the ubiquity of hazing to this day and the closed culture that surrounds major junior hockey.”
We certainly hope hazing has come and most important will come to an end now. While sharing their experiences has been hard on the plaintiffs, it is nothing compared to what they suffered during their early years as hockey player. Westhead strictly follows the policy against naming victims of sexual assault without their consent. The players who have made themselves known decided to do so to support the cause. Others former NHL players have been involved in the lawsuit, with Dan Carcillo and Garrett Taylor filing a claim against the CHL alleging that the league, its teams, and their executives “have perpetuated a toxic environment which condones violent, discriminatory, racist, sexualized, and homophobic conduct, including physical and sexual assault, on the underage players that they are obliged to protect.”
Back in July, the CHL responded to the filing of the claim against the league stating that the league was “deeply troubled” by abuse allegations and formed a panel to deal with abuse issues that is chaired by former New Brunswick premier Camille Theriault and includes ex-NHLer Sheldon Kennedy and long-time women’s hockey coach Daniele Sauvageau.
The CHL said at the time that the goal was to have the panel’s report completed in time for the start of the 2020-21 season. And let’s hope they make sure players are safe now, more than ever.