Amid allegations of sexual assaults involving players at multiple levels, cover ups and slush fund payouts to victims, a West Virginia University scholar and renowned social science expert on violence in the world of hockey predicts radical changes are ahead for the sport nationally and internationally.
Walter DeKeseredy, professor and Anna Deane Carlson Endowed Chair of Social Sciences in the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and director of the WVU Research Center on Violence, is a Canadian national and lifelong hockey fan with both deep love and grave concern for the sport.
DeKeseredy is one of the authors of “Skating on Thin Ice: Professional Hockey, Rape Culture, & Violence Against Women,” which explores conditions that allow a culture of toxic masculinity to persist within hockey and other professional sports, provides possible paths forward and calls for accountability among athletes, coaches and officials.
A press conference was scheduled for Monday (Feb. 5) in London, Ontario, Canada to provide an update on a highly publicized group sexual assault case involving players on Canada’s 2018 World Junior hockey team, including many who went on to play in the National Hockey League.
The case is covered extensively in DeKeseredy’s book and he is available to speak about its significance to the world of hockey and the potential trickle-down effects for professional sports at large.
“Violence in professional sports, specifically hockey, is endemic and is a major problem that starts well before players land in the NHL. Many of these men who are physically and sexually abusive were engaging in these types of behaviors when they were junior players and even before then, and that’s important to emphasize.
“For years this kind of behavior has been condoned by Hockey Canada and the National Hockey League both in slush fund payouts to victims to try and keep them quiet to NHL teams drafting known convicted sexual offenders. By creating a slush fund and recruiting these types of men, Hockey Canada is basically saying it’s OK to engage in these kinds of violent behaviors because these organizations will help make whatever accusations arise go away.
“In addition to the press conference in London, Ontario, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to hold his own press conference. This case is going to be a watershed moment for Hockey Canada and the NHL. I think we’re going to see some radical changes at every level of the sport, from the youth leagues all the way up to the professional teams. I think the flood gates are about to burst open.
“There was an investigation into this incident back in 2018, but for some reason, no charges were laid. So, obviously there is significant political pressure that’s being put on the London Police Department. I think we’re going to hear things that lead us into corporate boardrooms, NHL boardrooms and other places of power, and this is going to significantly impact the business of the sport. I think we’ll see more major sponsors withdraw their money which will be truly incredible, and I look forward to seeing some very good, very serious corporate leadership.
“I think the financial repercussions for the hockey world are going to be great and other professional sports leagues should take notice.” — Walter DeKeseredy, professor, Anna Deane Carlson Endowed Chair of Social Sciences, WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, director, WVU Research Center on Violence
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