Hazing. It has a stupid and decades long tradition of taking place in junior hockey in North America. Some of it lighthearted, and some of it can be criminally prosecuted.
Unfortunately, hazing can in some circumstances have a sexual deviant nature to it. While reports have not specifically said that this was the nature of the hazing that took place with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, the speed and level of discipline given the team and players would suggest this was much more than having to sing for your supper on the way to a game on the team bus.
The official KIJHL statement is as follows;
“The KIJHL was notified of the incident by Thunder Cats’ staff on Tuesday, September 13th and immediately suspended team activities, including the cancellation of the team’s exhibition game the following evening, in order to allow time to gather further information. League staff travelled to Creston on September 15th to conduct interviews with Thunder Cats’ players and coaches. Throughout this process, the KIJHL has consulted with its Safe Sport partner, ITP Sport, and with BC Hockey.
As a result of the KIJHL’s investigation, the following disciplinary measures have been taken:
- The Creston Valley Thunder Cats organization has received a fine and placed on probation for a period of two years. During this time, the Thunder Cats must take proactive steps to ensure a positive team culture free from abuse, bullying and harassment. Any occurrence of a similar incident will result in further sanctions.
- Members of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats will be required to complete training designed to identify and eliminate instances of abuse, bullying and harassment.
- Thunder Cats team captain Clayton Brown has been suspended for 12 games, effective Sept. 16, for violations of the league’s Individual Conduct Policy.
- Thunder Cats alternate captain Campbell McLean has been suspended for 6 games, effective Sept. 16, for violations of the league’s Individual Conduct Policy.
“The KIJHL is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for our athletes, volunteers, staff and fans,” says Commissioner Jeff Dubois. “What occurred in Creston was unacceptable, and the discipline imposed against the Thunder Cats’ organization and members of the team reflect our zero-tolerance approach to these types of incidents.”
“Our investigation made clear that we have considerable work to do in order to educate our players on the standard of behaviour and leadership expected of them in a team environment. We take this responsibility seriously, and we are taking immediate steps to address this issue.”
No matter what the nature of this instance, there is simply no place for hazing in today’s game. The tradition, having witnessed some “lite” hazing many decades ago is really more about abusing teammates than it is about welcoming them by initiation.
Sure, there are instances of teasing, rookie duties with game bags and other items that actually are traditions. Everyone does these things, even the best players in their rookie season go through some rights of initiation.
It changes though when those “rights” turn into activities that are humiliating and degrading. It turns into an abusive and potentially criminal activity when people are forced into situations that can be dangerous or immoral.
In today’s hockey culture, what was accepted as normal in the past does not mean it is acceptable now or that it was in the past.
When coaches today face discipline for calling a player a “dumb fuck”, “idiot” or any other name, players must be held to the same standards. Thirty years ago, coaches calling a player a name was not only accepted, it was expected. Today, it is neither acceptable, nor expected.
Hazing is a cultural thing. This incident in the KIJHL is not an isolated one. This is the one that was caught. I gather it was caught because of the pressure in Hockey Canada now to report all instances of abuse and the microscope the country is under concerning these occurrences.
These penalties are stiff. The player suspensions are stiff. The naming of two players involved publicly is particularly telling of the KIJHL position that they want not only the acts punished, but the players to suffer some public humiliation for their actions.
Hazing in every instance should be reported and dealt with. Its 2022, and one would hope we have learned a lot since the 1970’s when this “tradition” started to become common place.
The KIJHL did the right thing, and they did it swiftly. Hockey Canada could take some lessons.