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CHL responds to hazing lawsuit with an independent review panel

The Canadian Hockey League termed the allegations in a recent class action lawsuit, "historic in nature and we believe are not indicative of the leading experience our players receive in the CHL today."
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A week after a class action lawsuit that alleges systemic abuse, the Canadian Hockey League announced Friday it will be putting together an independent review panel "to thoroughly review the current policies and practices in our leagues that relate to hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying and the allegation that players do not feel comfortable reporting behaviours that contravene these policies."

The formation of the panel comes in the wake of a class action lawsuit launched by former CHL players Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor alleging systemic abuse. Carcillo's allegations stem from his rookie 2002-03 season with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario League and claim there were multiple incidents of sexual abuse. Taylor's claim stems largely from his second season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western League, the 2009-10 season when he was reassigned by the team. That lawsuit came just days after former Kitchener Ranger Eric Guest alleged he and another first-year player were forced to do cocaine by one of the team's veterans at a rookie party in 2016.

"We are deeply troubled by the allegations in the recently announced class action, many of which are historic in nature and we believe are not indicative of the leading experience our players receive in the CHL today," the league said in a release. "Regardless of the timing, we are taking the claims very seriously as the protection of our players has been and will always be our primary concern." The release also said the CHL, "is committed to ensuring them an environment that is players first and free of hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying, and that provides zero tolerance for any of these behaviors."

The CHL's board of directors agreed unanimously Thursday to appoint the independent review panel. A chair for the panel will be named in the coming weeks and the league said its goal is to have the review process completed in time for the 2020-21 season. The OHL had also previously announced that it has handed the Eric Guest file to the Waterloo Regional Police and that it is being treated as a criminal act.

The league also encouraged players, "to access established complaint procedures related to hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying. The existing procedures to raise a complaint without fear of reprisal include advising your coach, general manager, police liaison, player liaison or governor/member or league officials. To the extent that the allegations relate to criminal conduct we encourage those involved to contact the police."

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