Western women’s hockey team plans boycott over reinstatement of coach

Students walk across campus at Western University in London, Ont., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins. GAC

Western University’s women’s hockey team have threatened to boycott any games and practices run by a coach under scrutiny following an external investigation that led to the termination of the school’s strength and conditioning coach, Jeff Watson.

In a letter to Western president Alan Shepard, the team asked the university to reconsider the return of coach Candice Moxley. Moxley was one of the subjects of an independent investigation that stemmed from allegations of misconduct.

“We had an expectation that Western University would believe us, the survivors of the psychological abuse we faced from Coach Moxley,” the letter reads. “We do not believe that the investigation was fair, unbiased, and transparent.”

The letter states that the team can’t trust the independent third party brought in to investigate the allegations, London lawyer Elizabeth Hewitt, as she has ties to the university.

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Hewitt was a former board chair at Western affiliate, Brescia University College, and previously held a teaching position at Western’s Faculty of Law.

She was asked by the university to determine if Moxley or Watson had committed any misconduct or violated any aspects of Western’s non-discrimination and harassment policy.

Hewitt interviewed 45 people over the course of her investigation, confirming some of the allegations against Watson, but determined that the allegations against Moxley were unsubstantiated.  Moxley has been allowed to return to the role of head coach.

The school parted ways with Watson on Wednesday.

Members of the team allege that Moxley pressured them to play through serious injuries, threatening to bench any noncompliant players, and dismissed players needing assistance with their mental health.

“The university always planned for Coach Moxley to return, even prior to the completion of the investigation,” the letter alleges. “To us, this also proves the university does not believe us. They are not taking our concerns seriously. They are disregarding the voices of survivors.”

Players say that their first informal complaints, made in Feb. 2022, were not taken seriously by staff and had no follow-up.

Going forward, the team says they will be boycotting any practices and games that Moxley is involved in.

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“The concerns we brought to the university should not be taken lightly. Why is Coach Moxley’s treatment of us (past and present) being swept under the rug?”

The team has asked for another investigation into Coach Moxley, conducted by an independent firm with no relation to Western, past, or present.

They also request that the investigation be completely transparent and that a toll-free line be established that former and current athletes can use to file anonymous reports for the investigation.

980 has reached out to Western University and Moxley but has received no comment at the time of writing.

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