Hockey Canada paid a crisis communications firm $1.6 million to help steer the embattled organization through its public relations nightmare, the organization’s senior vice president Pat McLaughlin told a parliamentary hearing Tuesday. McLaughlin and Bob Nicholson, Hockey Canada’s former president and CEO, faced questions from federal MPs about a scandal that has led to the resignation of its CEO, entire board, and taken a significant financial toll.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Hockey Canada is expected to lose as much as $24 million in sponsorship as major partners have ended or paused partnerships with the organization.
- The organization hired Navigator, a crisis communications firm, in early July as it faced the departure of those sponsors, further parliamentary hearings, media scrutiny, and calls for change from its members. It has paid the firm $1.6 million to date.
- Nicholson says that Hockey Canada did not go far enough to combat a culture of silence and make people feel safe. Nicholson, the former Hockey Canada CEO from 1998 to 2014 who is now chairman of the Edmonton Oilers, said he wished he’d implemented more transparency during his tenure, including the keeping of minutes during meetings regarding settlements.
- Nicolson also admitted that Hockey Canada needed better guidelines for dealing with sexual harassment.
The hearing on Tuesday, the fourth since the revelation of a financial settlement of a sexual assault claim against several unnamed members of the 2018 Canadian national junior team, took a much more conciliatory tone than previous sessions, in which Hockey Canada leadership was widely criticized for a lack of transparency and being dismissive of media reports and Federal MP questions critical of its governance.
Hockey Canada’s interim chair, Andrea Skinner, resigned her position following a combative hearing in October. After refusing repeated calls for his resignation, Hockey Canada’s CEO Scott Smith left the organization a few days later. The entire Hockey Canada board also resigned.
Tuesday’s hearing followed the completion of a governance report by former Superior Court Justice Thomas Cromwell, which was critical of the transparency with which Hockey Canada operated multimillion-dollar reserves that were used to settle uninsurable claims, including sexual assault allegations.
Hockey Canada has paid out 21 settlements from the National Equity Fund, a fund fueled by player registration fees, from 1989 to 2022. Ten of those claims were related to injuries where the claims exceeded available insurance coverage; the remaining 11 claims related to sexual misconduct. The most recent of those claims was related to the 2018 incident in London.