A forward with the Acadia Axemen hockey team who was involved in an on-ice brawl against the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in Wolfville, N.S., last Saturday has admitted that he called an opponent a “rapist” during the game.
WATCH: Feb. 5 — Hockey teams involved in brawl had ‘agreement’ about on-ice comments two seasons ago: league
The statement came after St. Francis Xavier University issued a release Monday, alleging that the brawl began after Studnicka was targeted with a “derogatory comment related to a sexual assault survivor.”
Studnicka also issued a statement, saying that he has been “challenged in dealing with insulting and derogatory comments on the ice pertaining to the shaming of a sexual assault survivor” in his past three years in the system.
“It has taken an emotional toll on me, and it has been frustrating that one AUS hockey program in particular has elicited repeated on-ice comments directed towards me,” he said.
“There is no place for such comments within our society. Sexual assault is a very serious issue and there is simply no place for shaming sexual assault survivors, ever.”
Studnicka went on to say that X-Men head coach Brad Peddle brought up those comments with referees and with Axemen head coach Darren Burns in the game.
WATCH: Fifteen players and the head coaches of St. Francis Xavier University and Acadia University have now been suspended following that huge brawl at a game on February 2. As Ross Lord reports, the investigation into the players at the heart of the fight, and what exactly was said is not over.
But the player who allegedly made those remarks, he said, subsequently took a faceoff against him.
For its part, Acadia also issued a statement Monday, saying that its understanding of the incident was not consistent with the assertions being made by St. Francis Xavier.
Video showed Southam and Studnicka meeting at centre ice before the brawl broke out at Acadia’s bench.
It showed two false starts before X-Men player Regan Spears entered the faceoff circle. There, Southam and Studnika engaged in a fight.
The fighting subsequently moved to the Acadia bench, where a bevy of players joined the action.
Both Southam and Studnicka were given game misconducts for fighting.
WATCH: Hockey brawl erupted after player shamed sex assault victim — statement
A game recap showed that eight X-Men players and five Axemen players were thrown out of the game, alongside both head coaches.
In total, 15 players and two head coaches were suspended following the melee.
Rodney Southam’s statement
In his statement, Southam said the skirmish began with about 12 minutes left in the third period.
At that time, he said he became entangled with the X-Men captain as they headed back to their benches.
“While the linesman was trying to intervene, I was pushed through an open door and into the X-Men bench,” Southam said.
Southam later said he saw Studnicka spraying “up and down” his back with a bottle of water while he remained caught between a player and a linesman.
“I then turned around and we started exchanging words back and forth,” Southam said.
“In the heat of the moment, I singled him out, saying ‘you look like a little ******* rapist.'”
Southam said he informed Atlantic University Sport (AUS) executive director Phil Currie about the remark “as part of what I understood to be a confidential investigation into the incidents.”
Once he made the comment toward Studnicka, Southam said he “realized something more was happening because of the reaction from the team and surrounding coaches.
“I know when this was said that the linesman heard it and so did the X-Men players on their bench. I take full responsibility for saying something I should never have said.”
Earlier in the statement, Southam explained that he was once accused of sexual assault while he was playing junior hockey — he affirmed in his statement that he had not done it.
“After more than a year of tremendous stress on me and my family, seemingly endless meetings with lawyers and dealing with the legal process, the allegations against me did not proceed,” he said.
“Unfortunately, I carry these allegations with me and they were well known in my hockey circles and in every game in which I played, my opponents used it to taunt or ‘chirp’ me while calling me a rapist.”
Southam said, “because the taunts I endured are never far below the surface and are always in the back of my mind, that’s why I think I said what I said in the heat of the moment on Saturday.
“I do know I wish I could take that word back and I should have known better.”
On Wednesday, Currie said comments like the ones alleged to have been uttered during the game are unacceptable.
“Let me be clear about this: in terms of student-athletes in our system, regardless of the sport, making comments like that, it’s just not acceptable or appropriate, and we will address it,” he said.
Currie later clarified his remarks, saying there was “some consensus” that inappropriate language had been uttered before the brawl started, but he added that the context in which they’d been made wasn’t entirely clear.
He said further investigation would have to take place.
In the meantime, Currie has filed complaints regarding five players and three coaches who were involved in the brawl, after he looked at video evidence.
On Wednesday, Acadia University said in a statement that the brawl was “unacceptable,” that it accepted AUS’s ruling, that its player admitted to what he said and extended an apology after the game.
In a statement issued on Thursday, St. Francis Xavier University says Studnicka wants to focus on raising awareness and education on the issue of sexual assault and providing support for sexual assault survivors.
“He has spoken with Coach Peddle and other members of the athletic department about possible ways to move past this incident and transition into providing a positive mechanism for community involvement,” the statement reads.
“Mr. Studnicka and other student-athlete leaders plan on partnering with various groups on the St. FX campus to bring forth an upcoming initiative related to this issue and once plans are finalized further details will follow.”
Officials with AUS said Monday they were aware of issues regarding comments that were being made between the Axemen and the X-Men two seasons ago.
The teams agreed that comments being made were going too far, and it was understood that they had resolved the issue together, Currie said.
Currie told Global News that he wasn’t certain whether the comments that were uttered two seasons ago were the same as those that emerged on Saturday, but they were of the same nature.
He said that would factor into the investigation of the brawl.
— With files from Ross Lord and Sarah Ritchie