Ontario government says Greater Toronto Hockey League faces independent investigation

Marit Stiles addresses a press conference at Queen’s Park in Toronto, on Wednesday, February 1, 2023. Stiles called on the provincial government to launch an investigation into the Greater Toronto Hockey League for allegations of teams being sold for large sums of money. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario’s minister of tourism, culture and sport, Neil Lumsden says an independent investigation of the Greater Toronto Hockey League is in the works.

The announcement, which came at a question period Tuesday in Toronto, comes after Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles called on the provincial government to launch an investigation into the GTHL for allegations of teams being sold for large sums of money.

“The ministry does not have a direct relationship with membered organizations as a provincial sports organizations. It has no authority. The GTHL is a member of the Ontario Hockey Federation and that’s why, you asked about action, there’s action being taken,” Lumsden said.

“I use the word, independently of the GTHL, which means, ? that it is separate from the GTHL executives. Once that information comes back …. (and if) there is information that we need to follow up with the Ontario Hockey Federation, we will do exactly that.”

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Stiles was alongside fellow NDP MPP Jennie Stevens and former NHL player Akim Aliu at a press conference earlier Tuesday to address a TSN report on a prospective buyer that detailed negotiations from late 2019 and early 2020 to purchase the Humberview Huskies organization for $375,000.

The person, a father of two teenage boys who have played in the GTHL, alleged he was coached on how to get around the league’s rules prohibiting such sales.

“There does appear to be a cash-for-access culture that is giving some kids more opportunity than others,” Stiles said. “Today, in light of these allegations, I am calling on the provincial government to launch an investigation into these very serious allegations and do its part to end cash-for-access culture in amateur hockey.

“I am also calling on them to close any loopholes that the owners of these shell companies may have exploited.”

The GTHL mandates that its organizations cannot be bought or sold because they are registered as non-profits. However, they can be registered as not-for-profits with either the federal or Ontario governments.

“The reporting today about the GTHL is deeply concerning,” Stevens said. “And it is critical that we make sure that amateur hockey is fair and that children playing hockey in Ontario have an equal opportunity based on talent, skill and not wealth.”

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“I think this is a non-partisan topic that all families should have a vested interest in no matter the political views,” added Aliu. “To me, this is a topic of corruption, tax evasion, side payoffs, to get children on teams and a lack of access outside of the elite.

“ ? What’s happening right now with our game is a national embarrassment on so many levels.”

The allegations come at a time where the GTHL had already been under scrutiny.

Aliu and his partner Jim Nikopoulos had previously told TSN that the president of the North York Rangers organization told them during a meeting in July of 2021 at the GTHL’s head office that it would cost at least $1 million for them to buy the organization’s triple-A teams.

“We actually spoke to him months before a lot of this stuff came to light when I was kind of going through my back and forth with the GTHL trying to make something work,” Aliu said of speaking with Lumsden. “We told him about some of the issues that had been happening.

“He seemed to have been supportive at the time, I think that support tailed off a little bit. ? I just thought it was important to speak with the minister of sport and let him know what was happening and we just felt not enough action was taken. There’s always room to make a wrong right.”

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The GTHL told TSN that it is investigating multiple allegations that teams and the non-profit companies that run them have been inappropriately bought and sold.

“It’s not good enough, you can’t have the GTHL simply conducting an investigation of themselves, right? That’s not necessarily the best approach. We want the government to step in because this is about barriers to kids having access, … to the same opportunities,” said Stiles.

In response, the GTHL said in a statement that if misrepresentations made to the league are confirmed, it “will not hesitate” to impose sanctions, including expulsion.

“The GTHL is aware of these allegations and has already launched an independent investigation,” the statement said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2023.

This is a corrected story. An earlier headline said the Ontario government is investigating the GTHL. In fact, the government said an independent investigation is underway.

Global News has not independently verified the allegations.

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