Scott Smith, anyone else involved in Hockey Canada fund must go

Scott Smith, anyone else involved in Hockey Canada fund must go

Scott Smith has displayed the same sensibilities in refusing to resign as CEO of Hockey Canada as he did while overseeing the secret slush fund the organization amassed to, in part, pay out claims relating to victims of sexual assault that were considered “uninsured liabilities.” 

This decades-old National Equity Fund was partially financed by skimming a percentage of registration fees from unknowing minor hockey registrants. Imagine signing up your son or daughter to play hockey and learning later that a portion of the fee was going to perpetuate the cover-up of alleged sexual abuse. 

Smith, apparently as shameless as he is tone deaf, told a Parliamentary inquiry last week that he would not resign until ordered to do by Hockey Canada’s Board of Governors. 

And it is not just Smith who needs to go. 

Indeed, every member of authority within the organization who had knowledge of this fund must recognize his or her responsibility to step down. That would include past president Tom Renney, CFO Brian Cairo and any members of the Board and upper echelons of Hockey Canada. 

Those individuals were entrusted with the responsibility of caring for children and establishing a template of responsibility. They failed, miserably and habitually, in that mission. Regardless of how earnestly they are trying to convince investigators and the outside world — and likely themselves — that they can be part of the solution, they represent an indelible part of the problem. 

Hockey Canada President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Smith
Hockey Canada President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Smith

It was revealed in testimony last week to the Standing Committee of Canadian Heritage that Hockey Canada had paid $8.9 million to settle 21 cases of alleged sexual assault since 1989. The slush fund — my words — was used to settle nine of those cases, for $7.6 million. 

Existence of the National Equity Fund was reported by The Globe and Mail’s Grant Robertson in the wake of the scandal relating to a previously undisclosed settlement with a 25-year-old woman who was an alleged victim of sexual assault by members of Team Canada’s 2018 World Junior Team following a Hockey Canada event in London, Ontario, in May 2018. 

That horrific incident and its aftermath were uncovered by the groundbreaking reporting of TSN’s Rick Westhead and amplified upon by The Athletic’s Katie Strang. There is a special place reserved for Westhead and Strang in the journalists’ community for their unquenchable desire, effort and dedication to shine a light on the dark corners of hockey culture. They represent the highest standard of our industry. 

Tom Renney
Tom Renney
Getty Images

The scandal — Westhead has also reported on an allegation of group sexual assault involving members of Team Canada’s 2003 World Junior Team, which is now under investigation — has proven a reckoning for Hockey Canada, which has at least temporarily has been cut off from national funding and from considerable corporate sponsorship revenue. 

It has raised serious questions, not only in Canada, but also surely here in the United States — about the macho, old-boy mentality that infects the sport from both from the top down and from the bottom up. 

Canada deserved better from Hockey Canada. So did the sport. The organization needs a cleansing. It needs a new voice, new direction and new priorities. It needs new leadership. The past must make way for the future. The current regime must go. 

Six weeks out from training camp, the roster of unsigned free agents might challenge for a playoff spot — or would do an equally credible job as did the 2021-22 expansion Kraken. 

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