WEYBURN - A mainstay of organized team sports in Canada are the minor hockey teams, where children and youth can learn to skate, shoot and play the game.
For some young players, they have dreams to someday be a hero to their families and communities by making it to the big stage, like a World Junior team, Olympic team or the NHL, the pinnacle for most hockey players.
Most young hockey players will never make it that far, but will do their best on their minor hockey teams to be a team player, to be a good skater and to learn sportsmanship.
There are many life lessons young boys and girls can learn by playing hockey that go beyond the skills they learn on the ice to check, pass the puck and to skate.
For those players who are able to stick with the sport into bantam, midget and junior hockey levels, the on-ice skills become more important, but the off-ice lessons are just as important too. These young men and women are (hopefully) taught lessons in leadership, responsibility and in giving back to the community.
Thus it must be extremely alarming for minor hockey parents to learn that some of their hard-earned dollars paid for registration fees were used by Hockey Canada to create a fund to pay as compensation for victims of abuse and sexual assault.
A Commons committee looking into Hockey Canada was told no payments have been made from this fund – but the fact the fund is there, and was being funded by registration fees from hockey parents, is quite alarming.
Clearly Hockey Canada needs to deal with this issue, which has been around for many years. High-profile players like Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury have long been speaking out about the abuse they suffered, and they were certainly not the first players to have dealt with these issues.
Sadly, they are also not the last ones to deal with issues like abuse and assault.
There have been calls for the wholesale resignation of Hockey Canada’s top officials, and after resisting these calls for weeks, they finally announced on Tuesday that they will step down.
The committee was told by former interim chair Andrea Skinner that she feared arenas would go dark if this kind of change-over happened, but she must surely know that the hard-working volunteers of our minor hockey associations are not going to let that happen.
Now that the sought-after changes of the board are happening, there needs to be a change in how Hockey Canada handles issues like abuse, and how they will address it to ensure a safe playing environment for our young boys and girls who just want to play hockey and have fun on and off the ice.