You may have forgotten about hockey’s World Juniors championships. It’s the middle of summer after all, which is supposed to be the definitive dead time for hockey. You’ll probably need a reminder that the WJCs, in their normal slot back in December/January, had to be scrapped thanks to COVID outbreaks with three teams that caused the cancellation of several preliminary round games and basically rendered the tournament a farce. Who could have guessed even a bubble setting wouldn’t keep COVID away from a bunch of teenagers? Or teenagers away from COVID, such as it was, though this was right at the height of the Omicron wave so maybe there wasn’t a lot to be done.
Anyway, the IIHF has rescheduled the WJC for now, and it started last night in Edmonton as it was scheduled to be around the holidays, though this time it’s not a bubble, and fans are allowed (though many don’t seem interested). The tourney is taking place without Russia, as their team was thrown out thanks to their country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The question is, why is Canada involved?
You may have missed it, again it’s summer, but Hockey Canada is currently embroiled in perhaps that country’s biggest sporting scandal ever. You may have dropped off after the news of a 2018 alleged gang sexual assault, lawsuit, and cover-up hit the airwaves and internet. Or maybe you clicked off after the first government hearing, where it was discovered that Hockey Canada gets one or two complaints of sexual assault per season (imagine how many go unreported if you want to vomit up most of your intestine).
Since then, there has been news of another 2003 alleged group assault, the fact that Hockey Canada reportedly keeps a separate slush fund that is filled by the registration fees of children playing the game across the country and used to settle these lawsuits and accusations of assault quietly and quickly. That’s right, instead of getting to the bottom of this systemic issue at the roots, Hockey Canada has decided to just keep a big bag of money around to buy their way out of any notoriety. Which worked, until now.
So far, while Hockey Canada execs have been dragged in front of congressional hearings, only the board chair has resigned, and he was due to come to the end of his term in four months anyway. The rest of the board is still intact, and there’s been a lot of noise about changes they’ll make and policies they’ll institute, which is sadly the same song and dance we’ve heard before from multiple places. The organization, and sport really, remain poisoned.
So considering the mess that Hockey Canada is and has been, why weren’t they handed some sort of death penalty and had their WJC privileges taken away? It is clear that Hockey Canada is rotten from head to toe, so what better way to enforce real change than by taking away what means most to them?
While there’s no comparing starting a war or alleged sexual assault (covering sports these days is a blast), these alleged assaults took place under Hockey Canada’s watch by players representing Hockey Canada. They were allegedly covered up by Hockey Canada execs. The board of Hockey Canada engineered a system that kept this from ever coming to attention and fostered this culture of entitlement and misogyny.
How else would you punish Hockey Canada? I can already hear the Canadian prospect perverts screaming about how these players on this particular team didn’t do anything, but then neither did the Russian players. That’s what punishment is. Penn State players didn’t have anything to do with Jerry Sandusky’s horrors, but the program itself needed to be punished (and wasn’t enough). Hockey Canada is a program that needs to be punished too, and no level of it should get to duck it.
If Canada wants true change from Hockey Canada, then take away the hockey. It’s the only language they speak. This is why these players, and many others, felt so entitled back at the time.
Let’s go out on a brighter note. Sometimes I chuckle when you find a writer or broadcaster glow about the way a guy runs the bases, because after all, it’s just a guy running. What you’re saying is that he’s fast. There is an art to it, of course, but sometimes it seems like an awful lot of gloss for any sport’s most elementary skill.
And then you watch Ronald Acuña Jr. do it…
Now that is an art.