Omnipotent but obtuse Beleaguered Hockey Canada still doesn’t get it

The arrogance and hubris of Hockey Canada and its enablers are truly something.

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The arrogance and hubris of Hockey Canada and its enablers are truly something.

These so-called leaders of sport actually think they are so vital that the great game would just go away at the grassroots level if they weren’t around to do whatever it is they do, which, given all we’ve learned recently, seems to involve lots of looking the other way, burying heads in sand, secretly writing cheques and shirking any and all responsibility.

Fortunately, their house of cards is starting to crumble, as sponsors and provincial organizations quickly abandon what is clearly a sinking ship. The walls are closing in, the roof is caving in, and a much-needed day of reckoning would appear to be just around the corner.

Hockey Canada has nobody to blame but itself — even though it would rather point fingers in every direction rather than take a gaze in the mirror.

Under intense scrutiny for multiple sexual assault scandals that sure look like cover-ups, the governing body has the bizarre position that mountains are essentially being made of molehills, and “unduly cynical attacks” have unfairly turned the court of public opinion against them.


It’s a classic, predictable case of being backed into a corner and blaming the media. Of course, that doesn’t exactly fly here, since it was the dogged work of a handful of journalists who brought to light the very cases Hockey Canada really, really didn’t want you to know about. Along with not one, but two hush-hush funds in which player registration fees were used as protection against sex abuse claims, including quietly settling lawsuits.

Money talks, and the organization is losing it in droves this week. Major sponsors including Tim Hortons, Scotiabank, Canadian Tire, Telus and Imperial Oil have pulled the plug, which is going to leave a significant mark especially when marquee events such as the World Junior Championship roll around. Get used to seeing blank whiteboards in the rinks, and commercial-free broadcasts. That is, if the games are even televised at all, given that TSN and RDS issued statements Thursday demanding “meaningful change.”

All of this comes after a truly shameful performance earlier this week from Hockey Canada’s interim board chair, Andrea Skinner, who bristled at suggestions that a complete overhaul of the governing body is needed to restore public trust.

“I think that would be very impactful in a negative way to all of our boys and girls who are playing hockey,” a defiant Skinner told a parliamentary hearing that has put the organization under a public microscope. “Will the lights stay on at the rink? I don’t know. We can’t predict that. To me, it’s not a risk worth taking.”

What a load. This latest example of pouring gasoline on a raging fire comes after previous debacles that caused Hockey Canada to hire a crisis PR firm to try and beat back the tide of criticism coming their way. If this is a case of following advice, I sure hope there’s a money-back guarantee.

Skinner’s stance has touched off a firestorm, with everyone from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to one of our country’s greatest players, Hayley Wickenheiser, sounding off. Trudeau told reporters, “It truly boggles the mind that Hockey Canada is continuing to dig in its heels,” while Wickenheiser has called the organization’s conduct “disgraceful.”

There’s plenty of blame to go around here, including no shortage of accomplices within the sport who have allowed such power and control to go unchecked, and that includes right in our own backyard where Hockey Manitoba isn’t coming out of this smelling like a rose.

Oh, sure, they finally got around to issuing a statement on Thursday — after giving the Free Press and presumably other local media the silent treatment for a couple of days — in which the board of directors say they “support the call by members of Parliament for a change in Hockey Canada’s leadership at the senior staff level and board of directors.”

Hold your applause.

Unlike cohorts in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia, they haven’t pledged to suspend the collection of registration fees on Hockey Canada’s behalf, nor have they explained one heck of a flip-flop, given that executive director Peter Woods threw down his gloves and came out swinging in its defence two months ago.

“I believe they have the right people that are leading this organization, that have a great deal of experience in the hockey world, and I’m certainly comfortable with the direction that they’re going in right now,” Woods told the CBC. He even suggested those who would say Hockey Canada mishandled things are being “a bit argumentative.”

Woods, for the record, declined to speak with us this week, and the Hockey Manitoba statement says they will not be doing interviews or making any further statements. How brave.

Although I firmly believe it’s never too late to do the right thing, it’s important to keep score in vital matters such as this. And Hockey Manitoba’s response to date reeks of simply trying not to ruffle any feathers, to follow the pack and do the bare minimum required, and only as a last resort. In other words, the opposite qualities of leadership. Unfortunately, they have plenty of company around the country in that regard.

The sport will be just fine without the likes of Skinner, Hockey Canada president Scott Smith and the rest of the brain trust who have demonstrated, time and time again, they are simply not fit to hold these positions. In fact, it will, ultimately, be better and stronger once they’re gone. All of us who have played the game, and/or who have had children lace up the skates, know it’s the dedicated, hard-working volunteers who keep it running smoothly, not some self-important suits in offices who are only concerned about advancing their own interests.

New faces, new ideas and a transparent, cohesive and collaborative approach are required. We’re going to get there eventually, even if it appears it’s going to happen the hard way.

Would the last one out of Hockey Canada’s offices please turn off the lights?

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.


Updated on Friday, October 7, 2022 2:54 PM CDT: Fixes typo in deck.

Updated on Friday, October 7, 2022 4:17 PM CDT: Fixes grammar, typos, formatting

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