Trudeau wants 'wholesale change' as Hockey Canada loses more sponsors

BRYAN R. SMITH / AFP / Getty

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken several opportunities to express his displeasure with Hockey Canada and continued to do so Thursday, calling for "wholesale change" within the organization itself or externally.

"They need to realize that, if we have to create an organization, get rid of 'Hockey Canada' and create an organization called 'Canada Hockey' instead, people will look at doing that," Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

"The federal government isn't in the business of starting those organizations, but if nobody's going to this organization, I'm sure there'll be a vacuum filled up," he added.

Trudeau's comments came hours after Canadian Tire announced it would end its partnership with Hockey Canada.

"In our view, Hockey Canada continues to resist meaningful change and we can no longer confidently move forward together," the company wrote in a statement, per TSN and the Canadian Press.

While other companies like Tim Hortons, Telus, and Scotiabank have all suspended their support for Hockey Canada's men's program for this season, Canadian Tire is apparently the first to cut ties entirely. It also announced that it would redirect funds to Respect Group, an organization co-founded by Sheldon Kennedy that aims to eliminate bullying, abuse, harassment, and discrimination in sports.

Hockey Quebec made the substantial decision Wednesday to suspend the transfer of registration fees to Hockey Canada, while the Ontario Hockey Federation asked the organization to stop collecting the $3 participant assessment fee from its members.

Hockey Canada has been under intense scrutiny in recent months over a sexual assault lawsuit that was settled in May. In the lawsuit, a woman said eight unnamed CHL players, including members of Canada's 2017-18 world junior team, sexually assaulted her in June 2018 following an event in London, Ontario.

The organization was once again in the headlines Tuesday after interim chair Andrea Skinner downplayed "toxic behavior" in the sport while being questioned by the House of Commons.

"Suggesting that toxic behavior is somehow a specific hockey problem, or to scapegoat hockey as a centerpiece for toxic culture is, in my opinion, counterproductive to finding solutions," Skinner said, "and risks overlooking the change that needs to be made more broadly, to prevent and address toxic behavior, particularly against women."

Skinner also continued to support Hockey Canada's current leaders and wondered if the lights would "stay on" at rinks if those leaders were removed, according to TSN's Rick Westhead.

Trudeau pushed back against that notion Thursday.

"It's not like there's something extraordinarily special about the people at Hockey Canada that means they're the only people in the country that can run an organization like this," he said. "There's lots of people who could run it, and unfortunately, the total loss of faith in that organization by everyone means that it's nonsensical that they'd be digging in their heels on this one."

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Trudeau wants 'wholesale change' as Hockey Canada loses more sponsors
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