The puck stops where? Canadians show little confidence in Hockey Canada culture change amid sex abuse allegations

By: Kw Now News - Angus Reid Institute Poll
| Published 08/17/2022


Vast majority say Hockey Canada needs new leadership going forward

'Four-in-five Canadians support the federal government’s decision to freeze Hockey Canada’s funding until changes are made.'

August 17, 2022 – A rare summer edition of the World Junior Hockey Championship began with a whimper last week. The tournament, usually played over the Christmas and New Year holidays, has been overshadowed not only by summer weather but also an ongoing reckoning at Hockey Canada, believed to be pushing some would-be fans away from the rink.

The national organization that governs hockey has come under intense scrutiny for issues involving allegations of sexual assault by former players and the use of organizational money to settle lawsuits against them.

A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds a majority of Canadians (58%) say sexual harassment and sexual assault are a major problem in youth hockey, while another 17 per cent feel this is a problem, but a minor one.

Those closest to the sport share this view. More than half (56%) of Canadians with a connection to youth hockey, whether current or past, see sexual misconduct in hockey culture as a major issue. Among this group, women of all ages are more likely to perceive a major problem compared to men in their same generational bracket. Men younger than 35 are least likely to agree.

As Canadians, their government, and the national hockey organization plot a path forward, most are supportive of action announced so far, but uncertain of its effectiveness in addressing the problematic roots of the culture. Four-in-five say they support the federal government’s decision to freeze Hockey Canada’s funding until changes are made. That said, when asked about that organization’s new “Action Plan” to address these issues, which includes a review of training of coaches, players, and staff, just one-quarter of Canadians (27%) are confident that the environment will improve for women around the game.

Hockey Canada board chair Michael Brind’Amour resigned from his position on Aug. 5, just three months before the end of his term. Many, including Canada’s federal minister for sport, have continued to call for a change in senior leadership to begin a new era for the embattled organization. Canadians agree. Fully three-in-five (63%) say a change in senior leadership is needed, while just eight per cent disagree. Others say they aren’t sure what should be done (27%).

More Key Findings:

  • Among those who perceive sexual misconduct to be a problem in hockey culture, one-quarter of women (24%) say these forthcoming efforts from Hockey Canada will improve the situation, while three-in-five (62%) disagree. Men, too, lean in this direction, with 53 per cent lacking confidence.

  • While this is clearly seen as an issue by Canadians, only five per cent see sexual assault and harassment as a hockey-specific problem, rather than a sports problem. More than four-in-five (84%) say this is a broad issue to be dealt with in sports culture, even if hockey gets the most attention.

  • Past Conservative Party supporters are far less convinced that sexual misconduct is a problem in hockey culture. Two-in-five (42%) say it is a major problem, while comparatively, seven-in-ten past Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Québécois voters hold this view.