A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Canadian Hockey League and its member teams – including the Langley-based Vancouver Giants – alleging ritualized hazing, widespread physical and sexual abuse, and other trauma caused to young players in the major junior hockey league over a period of years, this from a statement of claim filed in Toronto courts this week.
Toronto-based Koskie Minsky LLP has filed the class-action lawsuit claiming systemic abuse suffered by teenagers playing in the Canadian major junior hockey leagues dating back at least four decades, lead lawyer James Sayce told the Langley Advance Times.
“We’re talking about 1980s, the 1990s, 2000s… These are historic abuse claims,” he said.
The lawsuit also alleges racism, homophobia, and violence against players as young as 15.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
After “many months” of preparation, the suit was filed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice Thursday against the Canadian Hockey League and its three member organizations — the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — as well as some 60 teams that play under the CHL umbrella. That includes the Vancouver Junior Hockey Limited Partnership and Vancouver Junior Hockey Partnership, Ltd. (known as Vancouver Giants).
The lawsuit seeks damages for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract, and a declaration that the teams and the leagues are vicariously liable for abuse perpetrated by their employees and players.
“A case like this is quite complicated,” Sayce said.
If anyone has any questions regarding the class action lawsuit against the @CHLHockey that was filed today, you can reach out to my lawyer James Sayce firstname.lastname@example.org@OHLHockey @TheWHL @QMJHL #ohl #whl #hockey #abuse #nhl #hazing #accountability pic.twitter.com/chJeMDtJFg
— Daniel Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) June 18, 2020
The lawsuit was filed by former NHL player Daniel Carcillo and former WHL player Garrett Taylor, but the lawyer alleges the problem is much bigger and broader than that.
“There are many, many more than two people who have suffered this abuse,” Sayce said, claiming more are still coming forward as news of the class-action suit spreads. “These [two] are our figureheads who are spearheading the claim.”
The proposed class, in this case, is made up of anyone who played junior hockey in one of the above leagues while under the age of 18, Sayce explained.
“We know there are many others, and we’ve had many others be in touch with us,” Sayce added. “But we, of course, want people to come forward and tell us their stories, so we can share them – if that’s what they’re interested in. I mean there’s power in numbers.”
The abuse goes back “quite a ways,” Sayce alleged, accusing senior players, coaching staff, and other team officials of either participating in or knowing of the abuse but doing nothing to protect the younger players (often rookies) or to end the abuse.
“Canadian major junior hockey has been plagued by rampant hazing, bullying, and abuse of underage players, by coaches, team staff, and senior players. Survivors of such abuse have come forward and continue to come forward to this day. However, the defendants have stubbornly ignored or failed to reasonably address this institutionalized and systemic abuse,” the claim summarized (See full statement of claim at bottom of this story).
Carcillo played for the OHL’s Sarnia Sting from 2002-05, before going on to play more than nine seasons in the NHL and earned Stanley Cup rings with Chicago in 2013 and 2015. He’s been described as an advocate for players’ rights since retiring in 2015.
He claims to have suffered through a full year of “almost constant and repetitive abuse” while playing as a rookie for the Sarnia Sting in 2002 at the hands of older players – experiences that have left him “permanently traumatized,” says the statement of claim.
“This case is on behalf of underage minors who suffered violent hazing, physical and sexual assault, and psychological trauma while playing major junior hockey,” Carcillo said in a statement. “I was one of those kids when I played in the OHL. I know there are many more just like me.”
Taylor, who played in the Western Hockey League from 2008-10 with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders, had a short pro-career. He claims abuse while in Lethbridge at the age of 17, and said he too has never gotten over it, requiring hospitalization after leaving the WHL. In the claim, he indicates coaches and team officials were aware of the abuse and some actually participated in it.
The current head coach of the Langley-based Vancouver Giants, Michael Dyck, was a coach in Lethbridge during the time in question.
“I don’t have any comment on Mr. Dyck or Michael Dyck. We’re just alleging a systemic claim here… We’re not going after or seeking to sue individual coaches or wrong-doers or players. This is a case about systemic wrongdoing,” Sayce said.
The Giants declined to comment about the lawsuit, while the communications director for the WHL said there is no official comment from the organization at this time.
– with files from The Canadian Press
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