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Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez

Bombshell

Even within the context of the number of shocking revelations that have made headlines across the Canadian Hockey League in years past, accusations made by Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor about systemic abuse in major junior hockey as contained in a lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court Thursday are nothing less than a bombshell.

Essentially, the lawsuit filed by Carcillo and Taylor accuses the CHL, its three major leagues and member teams of being complicit for decades in bullying, hazing and abuse of some players by other players, coaches and team staff. The allegations made by Carcillo and Taylor have not been proven and the CHL has not yet filed a defence, but they are stunning and disturbing. You can read the full story by Rick Westhead of TSN here.

This summation from the lawsuit is part of Westhead’s story:

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“Survivors of such abuse have come forward and continue to come forward to this day,” the lawsuit alleges. “However, the defendants have stubbornly ignored or failed to reasonably address this institutionalized and systemic abuse. Rather than respond to or make meaningful attempts to prevent such abuse, the defendants have instead perpetuated a toxic environment that condones violent, discriminatory, racist, sexualized, and homophobic conduct, including physical and sexual assault, on the underage players they are obligated to protect.”

THE ALLEGATIONS

Ongoing sexual abuse suffered by Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury at the hands of coach Graham James came to light in the 1990’s. More recently, accounts of racism by players like Akim Aliu have shaken the CHL. Now, we’ve got accusations by Carcillo, who played for the Sarnia Sting, and Taylor, with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, that are nothing short of shocking, sickening and absolutely indefensible on every level.

According to the lawsuit, players were forced to masturbate in front of teammates and coaches. They were forced to sexually assault teammates, to consume urine, saliva, semen and the feces of other players and to sexually engage with animals. It’s also alleged players had objects — hockey sticks, brooms and food — forced into their anuses.

From Westhead’s story: “During showers, rookies were required to sit in the middle of the shower room naked while the older players urinated, spat saliva and tobacco chew on them,” the 46-page statement of claim says. “At least once, the head coach walked into the shower room while this was occurring, laughed and walked out.

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“Rookies were repetitively hit on their bare buttocks with a sawed-off goalie stick, developing large welts and open sores . . . the injuries were so bad that they couldn’t sit down, even while attending local high school classes. They advised team staff of this abuse, which did not stop.

“During team practices, the head coach took Taylor aside and demanded that he fight other 16- or 17-year-old players in order to increase the ‘intensity’ level of the team. This took place numerous times. Taylor was seriously concussed during one fight in practice and he and other team members suffered other injuries during such fights.

The Hurricanes’ head coach allegedly provided a team credit card to one of the older players to buy alcohol for the team rookie party. The 16- and 17-year-old rookies were required to dress up in women’s clothing and were forced to consume large amounts of alcohol, to the point of blacking out and vomiting,”

THE BOTTOM LINE

The WHL hired an RCMP officer to investigate claims of abuse made by Taylor and his family in 2018, but then refused to publish the results of that investigation. To say the least, that kind of lack of transparency is profoundly disturbing in the don’t-talk, don’t tell world that we’ve seen in junior hockey for decades.

I spent four years covering the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL during the time James was abusing Kennedy and I didn’t even hear whispers about it until after he came forward in 1996. How does that happen? How can there not be the slightest hint of misconduct unless a lot of people are looking the other way? It can’t.

Now, these allegations by Carcillo and Taylor. I don’t know the details of this case beyond what is contained in Westhead’s stories and the lawsuit. CHL president Dan MacKenzie hasn’t offered any comment. I never saw any of the kinds of hazing, bullying and sexual abuse Carcillo and Taylor claim during the years I spent covering the WHL, but that doesn’t matter. I wasn’t privy to team functions, to what went on behind closed doors.

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We need to find out exactly what happened with Carcillo and Taylor, and we need to know how pervasive these kinds of barbaric hazings and assaults are across the CHL. Even one is too many. Will this be the lawsuit that finally kicks open the door closed to outsiders for too long? I hope so. We need to know the truth, no matter how ugly it might be.

Previously by Robin Brownlee