Hockey Canada is losing more major sponsorships — at least one apparently permanently — ahead of the 2022-23 season due to continued concerns from companies about the federation’s handling of sexual assault allegations.
The flight of sponsors comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday warned that Hockey Canada’s refusal to take the matter seriously could spur efforts to “get rid” of the organization.
Canadian Tire confirmed in a Thursday statement to Global News that it had made the decision to “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,” a statement from the company read.
“CTC is proud of our commitment to sport and will continue to invest in our beloved national game by re-directing support to hockey-related organizations that better align with our values.”
“We are deeply disheartened by the lack of action and commitment from Hockey Canada to drive necessary cultural change,” a spokesperson for Telus wrote in a statement Thursday.
“TELUS will not be sponsoring Hockey Canada’s men’s hockey programs for the 2022-23 season, including the upcoming World Juniors tournament. We remain passionate fans and supporters of the sport of hockey and stand committed to enabling systemic change to make hockey safe for all.”
Imperial Oil also told Global News Thursday its Esso brand would not be supporting Hockey Canada for the upcoming season, adding it has communicated to the organization that it expects “concrete steps to address ongoing issues, ensure change and restore trust.”
“We are disappointed that we have not yet seen more significant action,” the company said.
The statements came a day after Tim Hortons and Scotiabank confirmed they were pulling their own sponsorships for the season.
As the backlash continues to grow, Trudeau slammed Hockey Canada leadership as he walked into a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
“Hockey Canada has completely lost the confidence of Canadians,” he said.
“The longer it takes (Hockey Canada) to realize that, the more difficult it’s 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 winter activities this winter.”
Trudeau added that it is “inconceivable” that Hockey Canada leadership continues to “dig in.”
“It’s not like there’s something extraordinarily special about the people at Hockey Canada that means they are the only people in the country that can run an organization like this. There’s lots of people who could run it,” he said.
“There needs to be wholesale change … 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. There is a lack of understanding that they’ve lost the confidence of Canadians, and the sooner they get to that, the better it’ll be for everyone.”
Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge echoed Trudeau’s call for widespread change at Hockey Canada as she left a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
“I think that (Hockey Canada) needs new leaders, new directors and new experts to renew this organization,” she said.
“It needs to be rebuilt.”
As sponsors continue to drop their support for Hockey Canada, the hockey-playing families can find themselves caught in the middle, according to Theresa Bailey, the founder of the Canadian Hockey Moms website.
“It makes me sad because Hockey Canada is not just the management and board of directors, it’s everyone who plays within that bubble,” she said.
“So all of us are feeling uncomfortable about something that we’re associated with, but that we didn’t make decisions related to and don’t support.”
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But Bailey said she understands why sponsors are choosing to pull away from Hockey Canada.
“They have a social responsibility, and I think that they are paying attention to the outrage of families and fans,” she explained.
“They have a responsibility to act.”
The decision from multiple sponsors to pull their support comes after members of Parliament repeatedly pressed Hockey Canada officials for answers during a heated meeting on Tuesday about the organization’s handling of sexual assault.
The development also follows a Globe and Mail report, published on Monday, that revealed Hockey Canada put player registration fees towards a second fund “for matters including but not limited to sexual abuse,” according to documents obtained by the newspaper.
News of the first fund, Hockey Canada’s National Equity Fund, first broke over the summer. The use of the fund to cover sexual assault and abuse settlements sparked an outcry from parents, politicians and sponsors across the country.
During a committee meeting in July, executives told MPs that the fund — which was fuelled in part by children’s registration fees — had paid out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and sexual abuse claims since 1989.
CFO Brian Cairo told MPs during a July committee meeting that $6.8 million of that total was related to Graham James, a former Canadian junior ice hockey coach who pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault in 1997. Uninsured settled claims made up another $1.3 million of the payouts, $1 million of which resulted from four incidents from a single perpetrator.
Hockey Canada said in July it would no longer use this fund for sexual abuse claims.
— With files from Global News’ Mike Armstrong and Sean Boynton