Ottawa

Hockey Eastern Ontario had 3rd most discrimination penalties in Canada

A Hockey Canada report released last week showed 512 penalties for discrimination were called by officials across the country in 2021-22, and 71 of them were from Hockey Eastern Ontario — the third-most of any association in Canada.

National report last week detailed how many calls had been made under new rule

Hockey Canada reported last week there were more than 900 documented or alleged incidents of on-ice discrimination across all levels and age groups during the 2021-22 season. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A Hockey Canada report released last week showed 512 penalties for discrimination were called by officials across the country in 2021-22, and 71 of them were from Hockey Eastern Ontario (HEO) — the third-most of any association in Canada.

The 14-page document released Friday details the application of its new Rule 11.4, which deals specifically with discrimination — verbal taunts, insults and intimidation — including race, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, genetic characteristics and disability.

Jeff Baker, HEO director of operations, said the number shows referees are holding players accountable, and players need to know discrimination is unacceptable. 

"It's concerning. But on the other hand, I believe the numbers are attributed to the fact that our officials are actually calling it at a very strict pace," he said. 

"Players are being suspended and we're going to start seeing those numbers decline."

HEO trailed only the Ontario Hockey Federation and Hockey Alberta in this category.

Nationally, another 415 allegations were investigated after the fact rather than addressed at the time. Just 12 were in HEO.

A penalty call for discrimination in minor hockey, women's hockey and senior men's hockey has resulted in an indefinite suspension (minimum of five games) pending a hearing. As of this season, junior hockey players are also subject to a five-game suspension, according to the report.

More needs to be done

Julie Womack, whose son plays AA hockey for the Ottawa Sting, said the high number of calls for discrimination indicates a culture change is necessary.

She said her son, who is biracial, is often targeted with racial slurs when he is on the ice. 

"It's very emotional. It's very hard and it's very stressful and it causes a lot of anxiety because this is a sport he loves," Womack said. 

Justin Davis, who played two seasons for the Ottawa 67's in the late 1990s before he was drafted by the NHL's Washington Capitals, recently wrote a book about toxic hockey culture. 

Davis was not surprised by the number of discrimination calls. He said this has been an issue for a long time "but we've never talked about it and it's never been reported."

Former pro hockey player Justin Davis says he wasn't surprised at the results of the report, and he hopes this is the start of Hockey Canada addressing the permeating issues of hockey culture. (Heather Pollock)

"The problem that we have is actually finding somebody guilty, or actually reporting that they've done it," he said.

"When people make these comments, I've been in a couple of investigations with it, and everybody says, 'Well, until they hear it in person, they can't do anything."

Davis said making permanent changes to hockey culture will take years but the release of these findings shows Hockey Canada is committed to doing the work. 

"I would hope by releasing these numbers, then people are a little embarrassed by what's going on, and they want to be a part of the solution," Davis said. 

Data will help pave the way forward

In a statement, Hockey Canada said the report is an important step forward and the data from the 2021-22 season will help the organization understand "what is needed to better track, identify and respond to maltreatment in hockey."

"Hockey Canada acknowledges that there is a need to gain a better understanding of the types of maltreatment permeating in our sport, and their related manifestations, in order to successfully position ourselves to collectively address these in a tangible way," the statement continued. 

Hockey Canada announced in July it would introduce mandatory training for all national team athletes, staff and volunteers in the organization.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Kester

Reporter

Sarah Kester is a reporter at CBC in Ottawa. She can be reached at sarah.kester@cbc.ca.