Toronto Star, May 18, 1998

Hockey officials set to move on `sickening' abuse By Nicolaas Van Rijn

TORONTO (CP) _ The Canadian Hockey Association, stunned by a ``sickening catalogue'' of abuse, harassment and intimidation of amateur players, is stepping up efforts to make offenders accountable for their actions.

Officials say they aim to change the attitudes of coaches, trainers, referees, volunteers and parents that in the past led to the routine harassment of players _ some as young as eight years old. The changes were to be discussed in Quebec City today at the annual meeting of the organization, which sets the standards of play for some 520,000 amateur hockey players aged eight to 19 across the country.

``All of this was hidden before,'' said Bob Nicholson, president-elect of the organization. ``We are now starting to realize there was much more of this going on than we realized. ``It's a sickening catalogue.''

Among the incidents reported: _ During one initiation ritual, players inserted toothpaste into another player's rectum.

_ As an incentive to win more hockey games, one team of adolescents was shown pornographic magazines. More wins, more porn. _ The coach of one integrated team permitted both boys and girls to shower together.

_ During one game involving a bilingual girls' team, an official told the players on the bench ``not to speak French _ I hate it.'' _ A hockey scout was charged with sexual assault after he forced adolescent players spending the night at his house to shower and sleep with him.

_ One coach forced young players to skate around face-off circles until they vomited into buckets that he had placed in at the centre of each circle. Nicholson, who said he was ``shocked" by the incidents of abuse reported by young players across the country, was nevertheless buoyed by the response to the association's Speak Out! campaign.

It was instituted last year after former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy spoke out about the sex abuse he endured for years at the hands of junior hockey coach Graham James, who was later convicted. ``We anticipated a few cases, but we're surprised _ no, shocked _ at the volume,'' he said. ``We've got to act, to root this out of our sport.''

Mike McGraw, the association staffer who compiled a report for the CHA's board of directors on some of the worst incidents of abuse and harassment, said he knew ``it wasn't going to be pretty'' when the campaign began. The Speak Out! campaign encourages players to speak out about the harassment and abuse they suffer or witness, either by contacting local officials or calling the toll-free national Kids Help Phone, which can put youngsters in contact with counsellors and officials in the regions where they live.

``Usually you judge the success of a program by the good things happening,'' he said. ``But we're judging the success of this by the number of bad things coming out.'' Many of the incidents have been followed up locally, and police called in to lay criminal charges.

``This is just a sampling,'' said McGraw, the association's manager of regulations and administration. ``The same types of incidents come from all across the country _ from metropolitan areas, from the west and east, from every province.''

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