Hockey Canada’s new boss, Kathy Henderson, called the Calgary summit humbling

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CALGARY – The new head of Hockey Canada called what she heard at the summit humbling and eye-opening.

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Katherine Henderson took over as President and Chief Executive Officer of Hockey Canada this summer amid calls for culture change both in the organization and in the sport. She was previously CEO of Curling Canada.

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The two-day Beyond The Boards Summit — which fell during Henderson’s first official week of work — examined toxic masculinity in elite men’s soccer as a root cause of racism, sexism, homophobia and discrimination in sport.

“It was very enlightening to see how many people were willing to admit their mistakes and be vulnerable to things that they may not have been proud of in the past,” Henderson said Saturday.

“When I talk about humility and vulnerability, there were a lot of people in the room, I would say particularly the men, examining who they were, what they brought to the table and how they contributed to the culture.”

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The 160 attendees included hockey executives from pond to pro, said Pat McLaughlin, Hockey Canada’s chief operating officer.

The audience heard Bill Proudman, who co-founded White Men as Full Diversity Partners and has also worked with the NHL, and Secretary of Sports Carla Qualtrough.

Also among the speakers was former NHL player and child sexual abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy, who has worked for 27 years to raise awareness and prevent child abuse.

“We’re not yet winning gold medals off the ice in this area,” McLaughlin told participants on Saturday. “We have to learn from others. We have to deliver. That’s result No. 1.”

Kennedy said all organizations under the hockey umbrella need to communicate and work together to make mental and physical safety on the rink a priority.

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He says he’s been able to help police, government and schools develop integrated child safety strategies, and that hockey can do the same.

Kennedy pointed to the comparison of forwards, defenders, goalies and coaches all staying in different hotels, working out their own strategies and then trying to win an away game.

“People don’t know how to work together,” he said. “None of these people talk to each other and you wonder why kids fall through the cracks?”

Workshop sessions and panel discussions were closed to the working media.

“What I found refreshing here is that this group has the skills, will and ability to continue to reshape not only the culture of Hockey Canada, but the culture of hockey,” Proudman told reporters outside the conference room .

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“It’s a tough job because you can’t do it by flipping a switch and turning on the light in a room. This happens gradually over time and is a bit like player security. You’ll never get over it.”

Hockey Canada has come under pressure to change its culture and that of hockey due to reports and allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

A firestorm of criticism shook the organization last year when it was revealed that Hockey Canada had settled a dispute with a woman who alleged she was raped multiple times by members of the men’s junior national team at a 2018 gala.

The allegations could not be proven in court.

Revelations that a portion of the small ice hockey registration fees were used to settle such lawsuits fueled the uproar, and Hockey Canada subsequently lost sponsorships.

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“I cannot comment personally on 2018. I was not informed about this,” Henderson said. “I believe that as a national governing body we are accountable to the Canadian people and our members.

“My job right now is to take responsibility, but also to take responsibility going forward to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

A Heritage Standing Committee unanimously passed a motion in March requesting Hockey Canada to provide the final report from an independent law firm hired to investigate allegations related to the 2018 junior team.

Henderson said she understands the report “has not yet been delivered as it is still closed to the public and is being reviewed by an independent third party.”

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No formal recommendations were presented at the conclusion of the summit on Saturday. Hockey Canada intends the summit to be one in a series of summits addressing the issues of the sport.

“I’m not sure I can give you a route map or a project plan right now,” Henderson said. “We have to take the time to record what we hear. The path leads to a much better ice hockey game that offers a positive ice hockey experience to all Canadians who want to experience ice hockey.

“If there are people who want to go on this journey, please come with me. We want you there.

“If there are people whose ultimate goal is not that, we don’t want them on the journey. If they don’t want that for hockey, we don’t want them.”

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