Junior hockey tackles hazing legacy

The Canadian Hockey League has formed a panel to address alleged abuse suffered by its players after a lawsuit was filed last week.

The CHL is the umbrella organization that consists of the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League, which includes the Victoria Royals. The CHL and its three member leagues are listed as defendants in the lawsuit, as are all 60 teams.

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“We are deeply troubled by the allegations in the recently announced class action, many of which are historic in nature and we believe are not indicative of the leading experience our players receive in the CHL today,” the organization said in a statement Friday.

“Regardless of the timing, we are taking the claims very seriously as the protection of our players has been and will always be our primary concern.

“The CHL board of directors unanimously agreed to the appointment of an independent review panel to thoroughly review the current policies and practices in our leagues that relate to hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying, and the allegation that players do not feel comfortable reporting behaviours that contravene these policies,” the CHL said.

Former NHL player Daniel Carcillo, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks and former OHL player with the Sarnia Sting in the mid-2000s, and Garrett Taylor, who played in the WHL from 2008 to 2010 primarily with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, filed a statement of claim with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

A statement from Koskie Minsky LLP, the law firm representing Carcillo and Taylor, said the action “is on behalf of children aged 15-17 who were sexually and physically assaulted, hazed and otherwise abused while away from home and playing for CHL teams.”

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

“The existing procedures to raise a complaint without fear of reprisal include advising your coach, general manager, police liaison, player liaison or governor/member or league officials,” the CHL said.

“To the extent that the allegations relate to criminal conduct we encourage those involved to contact the police.”

While hazing and abuse might or might not have been a part of junior hockey’s past, Royals general manager and head coach Dan Price said it has no place in its present or future.

“I can only speak generally on this, but we believe in an environment where players and staff need to be positive and productive as possible,” he said.

“The importance placed on player support is paramount.”

Price is among a newer wave of coaches and managers in junior hockey. He was named head coach of the Royals in 2017 at age 42 and added the general manager role this spring.

“The more young hockey coaches I meet, the more belief I have in the new generation,” Price said.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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