Off the Top of My Head

Photo credit:Hockey Canada
Robin Brownlee
1 year ago
Hockey Canada’s announcement it’s doing away with its National Equity Fund – a fund we didn’t know existed and addresses claims not covered by insurance policies, including those related to sexual misconduct – isn’t nearly enough to set things straight. Not even close. Doing away with this hush money slush fund should be the beginning of significant changes in personnel and a restructuring of the entity that is Hockey Canada, not the end.
I’m not often in agreement with Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, but I’m with him when it comes to his take on what needs to happen after this latest ugly incident to stain the game and make headlines – the sexual assault of a women in 2018 and subsequent settlement that came from the fund we knew nothing about. And there is more to come.
From Simmons: “This all needs to be cleaned up on so many levels. Long before there was scandal, Hockey Canada was complicated. It is supposed to represent the sport at all levels in this country. It has done terrific work at the high-performance level and not so terrific work at the grassroots of the sport.
“That has to change. The economics have to change. The accountability has to change. The people in charge have to change. The brand has been forever damaged and the start over needs to happen soon.” For context, his entire column is here. 


We know another investigation of the 2018 incident, this time by the NHL independent of Hockey Canada, is coming. From Hockey Canada: “We have heard you and are committed to making the changes necessary to allow us to be the organization you expect us to be, and to restore your confidence and trust in us.”
Talk is cheap. No sooner had Hockey Canada issued this latest bit of lip service when new accusations, this time about an alleged group assault involving members of Canada’s 2002-03 National Junior Team, came to light Friday. So, here we are with a second investigation about 2018 pending and another from 2003 on the way. Forgive me if it seems like more of the same old, same old – lots of talk about earning trust and confidence and doing things right, but obviously not nearly enough action.
When I broke into sports writing 40 years ago, there was a don’t talk, don’t tell component within hockey culture that still remains today. Say one thing publicly, look the other way privately. Keep it in the room. How did Graham James get away with years of assaulting Sheldon Kennedy and Theoren Fleury? What, nobody knew? What about the dirty little secret that was Brian Shaw? Here we are now, finding out about sexual assault cases that are many years, even decades, old. Don’t talk. Don’t tell. Look the other way.
Hockey, every sport, is a reflection of the society we live in at large. Sexual assault isn’t a hockey issue, it’s a social issue rearing its ugly head and permeating the game. That said, it’s an issue exacerbated by hockey culture. So many years down this road, surely we can do better than slush funds and hush money, no? We need real transparency, accountability and sweeping changes from top to bottom and we need them now.
It’s way past time we get this right.


May 4, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal by forward Evander Kane (91) during the third period against Los Angeles Kings in game two of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
It seems to me Evander Kane and girlfriend Mara Teigen handled a cringe-worthy attempt by a TMZ “reporter” to grab a headline or two as they strolled along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills last week about as well as anybody possibly could.
The eventual headline? “NHL’s Evander Kane HITS RODEO DRIVE FOE SHOPPING SPREE . . . $20 Million Contract Celebration!!!” Well, no. Yes, Kane is fresh from signing his new four-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers, and he was in L.A. with Mara and their newborn son for the ESPY Awards, but he never commented on spending one thin dime in a shopping spree.
“Is there a limit to what you can spend?” Back in the years when I co-hosted the Jason Gregor Show, I used to tell Gregor straight-faced I relied on TMZ for inside info just to see the look on his face. No question TMZ has broken stories over the years, but I think these ambush interviews on the street are awful. Must be an audience for it because they keep doing them.

AND . . . 

Oct 16, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames forward Matt Tkachuk (19) checks Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman (18) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tip of the cap to Brad Lauer, who is leaving the Edmonton Oil Kings after four seasons and a WHL championship last season to join Rick Bowness and the coaching staff of the Winnipeg Jets. Lauer has had previous stints as an NHL assistant coach with Ottawa, Anaheim and Tampa Bay.
  • The best little player I ever saw at the WHL level was Dale Derkatch, who played with Lauer in Regina. Derkatch had 84-95-179 with the Pats in 1982-83. That got him drafted in the seventh round, 140th overall by the Oilers. Dale was all of five-foot-five and 145 pounds. He never played an NHL game.
  • I thought the Oilers’ re-signing of Kane or Johnny Gaudreau opting to leave Calgary would stand as the most surprising transaction of the off-season. Everything now is runner-up to the Matthew Tkachuk trade.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

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