Funny how things go.
A few weeks back I was agreeing with major junior hockey players that they should be paid at least minimum wage for their services.
Now I am about to suggest that many who went through the major junior ranks and probably some who are still there should be criminally charged with abuse of their teammates.
I have come to that conclusion after reading about the class-action lawsuit Daniel Carcillo, a 10-year veteran of the National Hockey League who played in the Ontario Hockey League with the Sarnia Sting beginning in 2002, and Garrett Taylor, who played in the Western Hockey League beginning in 2008, have filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the Canadian Hockey League, the umbrella organization of the three major junior hockey leagues in this country..
The two players complain about the treatment they allege they received as rookies, treatment at the hands of their teammates in the name of hazing that if it is indeed true is as disgusting as it comes.
Carcillo and Taylor are going after the league because those involved in running the teams, general managers, coaches and possibly in some cases owners, allegedly knew what was going on and did nothing about it.
In the lawsuit they give the players who actually administered the abuse, and it was abuse, a pass.
I don’t think they should.
I believe they should name those involved in what to my mind appears to reach the level of atrocity.
However, I can see where that would be a problem in Carcillo’s case as he admits when it came his turn as a veteran, rather than stepping in on behalf of the rookies, he participated in the abuse of them.
I haven’t read the lawsuit personally so I will provide a brief portion of the report on it by Ken Campbell in The Hockey News. Due to space limitations I will concentrate on Carcillo, giving you enough about his claims, as they appear to be the more egregious, to trigger your gag reflexes.
Campbell writes that Carcillo, who claims he has been permanently traumatized, suffering mental health issues to this day, alleges:
Rookie players on the Sting were, among other things, forced to masturbate in front of teammates and coaches and forced to sexually assault teammates, to consume saliva, urine, semen and feces of other players and to sexually engage with animals. It is also alleged that players had heavy objects tied to their genitals, had their genitals dipped in irritants and toxic liquids and had objects such as hockey sticks, brooms and food forced into their anuses. The head coach walked in on a naked rookie taped to a table with his buttocks in the air. Older players were whipping him with a belt. The head coach took part, whipped the child and laughed while the boy cried
Carcillo alleges that he was subjected to “almost constant and repetitive abuse” while playing for the Sting during the 2002-03 season. He also alleges that nothing was done to protect him and the other 12 rookies on the team, despite the fact that coach Jeff Perry and general manager Terry Doran were aware of what was happening.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
The CHL, OHL, QMJHL and WHL are listed as defendants, as are all 60 teams – including the Soo Greyhounds – who compete in the OHL.
“The focus of the case is a failure to protect, to oversee the children in your care,” James Sayce, the lead lawyer for the class action told Campbell. “These are systemic issues that have been in place for quite a while. There has been a good deal of knowledge in the hockey world that abuses are taking place. And to this day, we have the leagues being very slow to respond.”
However, maybe this time something will be done.
The CHL, saying it was “deeply troubled,” last week announced it will appoint an independent review panel to examine current policies and practices that relate to hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying, along with the allegation that players do not feel comfortable reporting behaviours which contravene the policies.
Carcillo, who won two Stanley Cups while with the Chicago Blackhawks ,has admitted his role in bullying younger players.
“I was a bad person and a bad teammate,” Carcillo told USA Today in 2019. “But I also know I wasn’t born that way. I take ownership of my actions”
Since his retirement, Carcillo has been an outspoken advocate for players’ rights and mental health
Goalie Ryan Munce, a rookie teammate of Carcillo’s, and another player who did not want to be named, confirmed Carcillo’s account with Campbell, who said Muncie provided a few of his own horror stories.
In 68 games in his rookie year, Carcillo put up good numbers, 29 goals and 37 assists. That was the same year Jeff Carter was top dog with the Soo Greyhounds and Tyler Kennedy, a local product, like Carillo was in his rookie year here.
Looking back, I get a sickening feeling thinking of how we sat so comfortably in the stands, even though it was the old Memorial Gardens, watching the players give their all on the ice without a clue as to the abusive life that was theirs off the ice.
As I said up top, I believe the names of perpetrators should become public, not so much to nail those from the past but more to educate those there now that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
Is this still happening, I don’t know although Carcillo’s lawyer indicates it has been an ongoing story.
In any event, I believe current players’ parents, who have to be horrified knowing what has taken place in the past, must be assured that their sons will be going into a safe place rather than a horror chamber.