Note: There are allegations made in the following story that may disturb some readers.
When you read through the affidavits filed by 14 former Canadian Hockey League players with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in the class action lawsuit launched by Dan Carcillo and Garrett Taylor, it’s enough to make you sick. The hazing rituals that went on unabated for more than 30 years in junior hockey – and may still be going on depending upon whom you believe – were truly depraved, sociopathic and disturbing, regardless of what the social norms of the times supposedly allowed.
But there were several claims made that were even more disturbing than the repeated allegations of hyper-sexualized, homoerotic and humiliating acts that were forced upon rookies in junior hockey. (None of these allegations has been proven in court.) Among them was an observation made by a player who played in the Ontario League between 1992 and 1995. “I don’t blame the older players. They didn’t know any better,” the plaintiff said of his tormentors. “There was nobody stopping them. The players were left entirely to ourselves. It was our world to govern. The following years, the same type of hazing went on, just not as regular or severe. It was pretty normal and seemed accepted or even expected when I played in the OHL.”
The other was disturbing posited by Dr. Jay Johnson, an associate professor in the faculty of kinesiology and recreation management at the University of Manitoba and a leading expert on hazing, initiations and rites of passage. The law firm representing the plaintiffs retained Johnson to prepare a report that described junior hockey as a “deviant culture” and a “total institution” akin to Canada’s infamous residential school system. And judging by the affidavits filed by the players, it might have left similar scars. Johnson went on to opine, “based on my research, the average Canadian Junior Hockey League player would have to be very lucky to avoid any of the above hazing rituals or other types of abuse, after playing in these leagues.” Johnson went on to say, “Hockey hazing continues to this day with management fully aware of its presence. I continue to hear accounts of hazing from players who played in recent years. I understand that the OHL, QMJHL and WHL currently have ‘zero-tolerance’ policies for hazing, and have had such policies for at least the past several years. I do not have access to these policies, however, I have concerns regarding their effectiveness given the ubiquity of hazing to this day and the closed culture that surrounds major junior hockey.”
The allegations range in time from the 1980s with one of them having played in the OHL as recently as 2014. As for the allegations themselves, they were beyond disturbing, covering the full spectrum of what most people would consider abhorrent behavior and beyond that. Players described everything from the infamous “sweat box” where players are forced naked into the washroom of the team bus to things as heinous as forced anal penetration with hockey sticks, forced masturbation and forced consumption of semen, public nudity, forced shaving of pubic hair and sexual aggression with a lack of female consent. At one point, Dr. Johnson pointed out that, “The term ‘whore-show’ is common among players throughout the major junior hockey system in Canada. This is a term used to describe a sexual encounter involving one female and several members of the same team. Women that take part in these events are referred to as ‘whore-show girls’ and players who organize and orchestrate them are often praised and rewarded for their accomplishments. Due to the competitiveness and jealousy between teammates, these sexual events sometimes become violent and aggressive, leaving the women feeling scared, hurt, and alone to deal with these traumatic experiences.”
And the allegations have left the plaintiffs shaken. Among them:
* A player who played in the WHL in 1983- and ’84 was hazed as a rookie member of the Winnipeg Warriors after being recruited by convicted pedophile Graham James, who was a scout for the team. He was placed with a billet who had previously been convicted on seven counts of gross indecency and one count of buggery in connection with relationships he had with six teenage boys in 1978. He claimed that he, too, was the object of sexual advances from the “The first time I approached the GM to tell him what was going on, I expected to be placed with another billet immediately,” the player claimed. “Instead, the GM threatened me. He said I could get in big trouble for bad-mouthing such a prominent member of Winnipeg society. He told me I should be grateful to have such a billet and that I should keep my mouth shut, or I might lose my place on the team. 28. I reported (the billet’s) advances two more times during the season and the GM reiterated again, more forcefully, that I would be sent home if I kept making up these stories. I think it is shocking that the team would billet me with a convicted pedophile, chosen by another pedophile and that the team did not believe me when I complained.”
* A player who was in the WHL from 1980 to 1984 claimed that at the Victoria Cougars training camp, he had a hockey stick forcibly inserted into his anus, heat ointment was placed in his urethra using a pin and older players would defecate and force the rookies to throw their feces at one another. The player made the team, but went home. He joined the Kamloops Jr. Oilers the next year, where he claims he was, “sexually assaulted approximately 40 times in the nine months I played in Kamloops.”
* A player who played in the OHL from 1996 to 2000 said the abuse he suffered was life-changing. “Psychologically, this abusive behaviour was even more confusing and damaging than the experience of a year-long fight with brain cancer in my mid-20s,” he said.
* The trauma suffered by one player who played in the OHL from 1992 to 1995 has kept him off the ice in his 40s. “My time in junior hockey in the OHL left me emotionally traumatized,” he said. “For example, I cannot get on the ice to play hockey, even today. When friends invite me to play pick-up hockey, I become anxious and come up with excuses as to why I can’t. I had a full-blown panic attack this past winter when I went out on the ice with my son. Anytime I think about playing hockey, I become extremely distraught and anxious. I’ve been dealing with these issues my whole life.”
* One player who played in the OHL from 1992 to 1995 claimed the scars left by his experience in junior hockey drove him to addiction. “As a way of coping with the constant abuse, all of the rookies would get together at one of our billets’ houses most nights,” he said. “We would get extremely drunk every night we were not on the road. Some of us, including me, were using cocaine regularly. I never drank or took drugs before I arrived in Newmarket. I became an alcoholic after that year. I was only able to stop drinking about 10 years ago and I’ve been sober since.”
* Another player who played in the OHL from 1980 and 1984 detailed similar destructive behavior. “I can think of an example when I was playing with my children when they were young,” he said. “They pinned me down on a bed and I completely freaked out and started panicking. I wasn’t able to tell anybody at the time, but my family thought I was crazy. I started drinking heavily after these incidents. It turned me into a black mass of nothing. I would drink myself into oblivion and acted like an idiot. I've lived a life of self-isolation and mistrust of others.”