Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made some one of his strongest statements yet on Hockey Canada on Thursday, saying Canadians might want to look at creating a new organization called Canada Hockey if the sport's governing body in the country does not make major changes soon.
"There needs to be wholesale change, they need to do it, 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. "There is a lack of understanding that they have lost the confidence of Canadians. The sooner they get to that, the better it will be for everyone."
Trudeau's comments came in the wake of Hockey Canada receiving increased scrutiny for its handling of an alleged group sexual assault in London, Ont., in June 2018 involving members of that year’s world junior hockey team.
Five major sponsors — Scotiabank, Telus, Tim Hortons, Chevrolet/GM, and Canadian Tire — have pulled their support of some Hockey Canada programs in the past 24 hours. Canadian Tire was the most recent to do so, declaring it had "made the decision to ends its partnership." The other companies were either redirecting their sponsorships away from the national men's programs or the world junior tournament, which is being held in Halifax and Moncton this December and January.
On Wednesday, news broke that both Hockey Quebec and the Ontario Hockey Federation have asked Hockey Canada not to collect fees normally handed over to the national organization, which amounts to $3 per sign-up.
Asked if Canada should start a new organization for hockey, Trudeau said: "The federal government isn’t in the business of starting those organizations but if nobody is going to this organization, I’m sure there will be a vacuum filled up."
Hockey Canada continues to vigorously defend its leadership amid criticism over the handling of alleged sexual assaults and the way money was paid out in lawsuits, including on Tuesday at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa.
“The fact is Hockey Canada has completely lost the confidence of Canadians," Trudeau said Thursday. "The longer it takes to realize that, the more difficult it is going to be not just for them, which is fine, but for kids in hockey, for juniors, for people who rely on that organization to play the sport they love and to have activities this winter. It is inconceivable that folks at Hockey Canada continue to dig in.
"It’s not something 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. There’s lots of people who can run it and unfortunately the total loss in faith in that organization by everyone means it’s non-sensical to be digging in their heals on this one."