Hockey is central to many Canadians’ notion of national identity. Recent sexual-assault allegations have been the latest indicator of a dangerous side to hockey culture and have rocked the Winnipeg hockey community.
Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of the Winnipeg Jets, worked for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 when a hockey player came forward with allegations of sexual assault against one of the coaches. Kyle Beach recently revealed himself to be the player. Furthermore, an investigation earlier this year found that Cheveldayoff knew about these allegations, but little was done.
Kara Neustaedter, coordinator of the Sexual Assault Crisis Program at Klinic Community Health, says “sexual assault and sexual harassment have to do with power imbalance.”
“All workplaces have potential power imbalance,” she says, noting that “there’s managers and supervisors, there’s workers, there’s a hierarchy of positions, then there’s the inherent power imbalances that come with being young or Indigenous or a Person of Colour or a newcomer.”
Clearly, there are many ways in which these power imbalances are present within hockey organizations, such as between coaches and players or between veteran and rookie players.
An Angus Reid study conducted earlier this year found widespread beliefs among the Canadians surveyed that hockey is good for community and teaches important values, but its culture has serious issues. Most respondents agreed that misogyny, bullying and racism are problems facing the sport. However, people overwhelmingly answered that these problems are not getting worse (either staying the same or improving).
Cheveldayoff will not be disciplined by the NHL or removed from his position. He recently apologized and committed to learning from the situation.
“True North Sports + Entertainment grounds its culture through its values which are: Team, Trust and Respect, Do the Right Thing and Continuous Improvement,” Krista Sinaisky, True North Sports + Entertainment’s director of corporate communications, says in a statement to The Uniter.
“True North aspires to live these values in day-to-day decision-making and actions, including by fostering a healthy, safe and inclusive work environment across all levels of our organization,” she says.
“We will continue to build on this culture as well as build on the training, policies, procedures and supports that are in place to address matters relating to inappropriate behaviour in the workplace,” Sinaisky notes.
The Uniter asked the Winnipeg Jets what steps it has taken in recent years to ensure a safe work environment and positive culture for players, coaches and staff, but did not receive any specific information from Sinaisky.
“I don’t think one workplace inherently has more or less potential for sexual harassment to occur, but some workplaces are just being a lot more deliberately thoughtful about that, making sure that there is a safe environment for all of their workers,” Neustaedter says.
The Winnipeg Jets head out on a short road trip to play the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 26 and the Calgary Flames on Nov. 27 before facing off against the Arizona Coyotes at home on Nov. 29. They currently are in third place in the Central Division.
Published in Volume 76, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 25, 2021)