Quebec Major Junior Hockey introduces ‘locker room code’ to prevent violent hazing
The head of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League said Wednesday he will take steps to combat a “culture of silence” in locker rooms.
Commissioner Gilles Courteau told a Quebec Legislative Commission hearing on violent hazing practices in hockey that a “locker room code” will be in place in time for next season and will make it clear what behavior is unacceptable.
The legislature is studying the issue after a recent Ontario court decision revealed details of sexual assault and torture of teenage hockey players in Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues, dating back to 1975. Ontario Supreme Court Justice Paul Perell accepted evidence that former players had been “horrific”. and despicable and decidedly criminal acts” by teammates and staff during initiations.
However, the Ontario judge denied a request to certify a class action lawsuit against the hockey leagues and their teams after finding they had not submitted a workable plan to litigate. The plaintiffs can still appeal the decision or file individual lawsuits against the leagues and teams.
Since a Radio-Canada report on the decision last week revealed specific instances of abuse, Quebec League executives have been caught in a political storm. On Wednesday, Courteau said he verified that none of the disturbing revelations detailed in the Radio-Canada report related to the Quebec league.
“This is an important fact to note, but it doesn’t absolve us from reflection,” Courteau said. “We’re not above other leagues… there’s a culture in our sport that can be harmful.”
Courteau said initiations have long been banned in the league, but noted that efforts should be made to end the culture of silence in the locker room.
“There comes a time when the locker room door closes. From now on, the QMJHL wants to put up a window,” said Courteau, who has been commissioner of the Quebec league for 37 years.
Courteau will meet with owners and managers in the coming days and he promised to speak directly with players as he develops the code in time for next season. “Everyone who enters the locker room or is part of the team must commit to following the code,” Courteau said.
Also Wednesday, Canadian Hockey League president Dan MacKenzie told the commission that all of his players will undergo mandatory respect training.
“We think this is a very important step in educating our players,” he said.
The CHL is the umbrella organization for the country’s three major junior leagues and includes 60 private or community teams, including eight in the United States, with a total of 1,400 players. He noted that each league sets and enforces its own rules and codes.
MacKenzie called the evidence presented in the lawsuit and reported by Radio-Canada “appalling” and said it has no place in hockey.
“The graphical events described in the paper took place decades ago and significant improvements have been made over the past 20 years,” he said, adding that policies and procedures are now dramatically different.
He urged players to come forward when hazing takes place. According to MacKenzie, the way to put an end to such acts is to ensure players have a means of reporting that takes complaints seriously. He said the CHL has received a dozen complaints over the past five years, ten of which were well founded. Actions taken as a result included training and firing a team member.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 22, 2023.
— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal
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