A dozen former players have now joined the class action lawsuit former Sarnia Sting player Dan Carcillo and former Lethbridge Hurricanes player Garrett Taylor filed last summer with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the Canadian Hockey League and the three major junior leagues that operate under its umbrella because of the hazing that has gone on over the years…
Affidavits from the 14 were filed with the court on Dec. 10.
Ken Campbell, a writer with The Hockey News who has been covering this story from the beginning, says when you read through them they are enough to make you sick.
We already know that, of course, because of his original stories filed in June, a grisly portion of which I carried in my column of July 2.
Campbell says he is going to attempt to interview all the players involved.
Gene Chiarello, a Sault native who played four years in the Ontario League with the London Knights, is one he has already interviewed.
Chiarello told Campbell that although his years in London were largely positive ones, he joined the lawsuit against junior hockey because of the abuse he suffered in his rookie season.
He said the abusive behaviour he experienced during the 1996-97 season was harder to deal with than the battle with brain cancer he later went through. His exact quote to Campbell:
“Psychologically, this abusive behaviour was even more confusing and damaging than the experience of a year-long fight with brain cancer in my mid-20s.”
He told Campbell the difference between the cancer and the abuse was that with the cancer, he at least knew when difficult times were coming. Not so with the abuse.
He said he and the other Knights rookies were subject to such constant and random abuse that he very nearly quit the game he loved.
“To be on a bus going to a road game and to be thrown into the lavatory with no clothes on and then show up at a road game and have all of us pull the same jersey over our heads and be a team, it was just a real confusing time.”
He said it was not a way to foster team chemistry.
Chiarello knows he got off relatively lightly compared to some of the others filing affidavits as he wasn’t forced to eat semen drink urine, commit a homosexual act or be sodomized with the butt end of a hockey stick, some of the things rookies on some teams were forced to endure.
However, he did experience the “sweat box” where rookies are thrown into the washroom on a bus together naked. Their clothing is taped together in a ball and none are allowed out of the bathroom until they’ve untangled the ball and gotten dressed.
Chiarello also talked about “the pit”, where a rookie would be called to the back of the bus, then would be covered in blankets and repeatedly punched by veteran players.
In his affidavit, Chiarello said that it would have been impossible for the Knights coaching staff not to have known about the abuse being perpetrated on the bus.
This fits in with the original claim by Carcillo and Taylor, who said they were going after the CHL and the major junior leagues 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.
But former NHLer Brad Selwood, who was the Knights coach for part of Chiarello’s first season in London, told Campbell that Knights management did not know.
“Every team I ever coached, I said up front the first time I ever laid eyes on them, ‘Hazing will not be tolerated and if it happens to you, tell us and we’ll deal with it immediately,’” Selwood told Campbell. “I have absolutely no knowledge of it. Paul McIntosh (now a pro scout with the Dallas Stars) was our GM at the time and he and I agreed to not tolerate it ever. I know nothing about what he’s claiming.”
Selwood, who went on to become GM of the Oshawa Generals and has been a fixture in minor hockey circles in Toronto, was fired by the Knights in February of that season, right around the same time Chiarello went to Knights owner Doug Tarry Jr., and told him that he intended on quitting the team and returning home because of the constant abuse from the veterans. McIntosh took the team over for the rest of that season, and then the Knights hired Gary Agnew, whom Chiarello said was a stabilizing influence with the organization.
In an attempt to break the cycle of abuse, Chiarello in his veteran years extended a welcoming hand to rookies.
In launching the lawsuit, Carcillo, who won two Stanley Cups while with the Chicago Blackhawks, admitted his role in bullying younger players when he became a veteran.
“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”
Chiarello said he had never spoken with Carcillo but he doesn’t doubt a word of what he says in the stories he recounted.
ust a quick peek at one of the affidavits:
Doug Smith, a rookie with the Ottawa 67’s during the 1979-80 season, alleged that he was jumped in the change room by senior players who tied him up, blindfolded him and shaved his genitals. After coating his privates with the hot substance Rub A535, he was taped to a metal grocery cart, rolled to centre ice in the arena and left there in the dark. The abuse went on all season.
If this had happened in regular public life, the perpetrators would have been charged with at least assault and forcible confinement and probably would have served jail time as a result, as well they should.
Carcillo and Taylor, in going only after the leagues, are giving the players a pass.
They shouldn’t. As I said in my column in July, as the actual perpetrators of the abuse they should be held to account too..