Loading articles...

Culture change in youth hockey as more players with claims of abuse come forward in NHL

Last Updated Nov 29, 2019 at 10:24 am PST

FILE PHOTO: Philadelphia Flyers left wing Daniel Carcillo is restrained by referee Ian Walsh (29) in the first period against the Minnesota Wild during a preseason NHL hockey game in St. Paul, Minn., on September 25, 2010. Daniel Carcillo spoke out on Saturday night about his experience with hazing while a member of the OHL's Sarnia Sting, detailing how he feels Canada's hockey culture needs to change. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Andy King

Another ex-NHLer has come forward with accusations of abuse against a coach

Former NHL enforcer Daniel Carcillo is accusing long-time coach Darryl Sutter of constant verbal abuse six years ago

There's been hard work at the minor hockey level to change the culture, according to BC Hockey's Dave Cunning

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Another former NHL player is speaking out, accusing a longtime coach of abusive behaviour both on and off the ice

Daniel Carcillo is an former enforcer on the ice who played for Darryl Sutter when he coached the LA Kings.

Carcillo — now an outspoken critic of the “tough guy” mentality in hockey — has come forward on Twitter and in the media, accusing Sutter of abusive behaviour six years ago, berating players, kicking one in the back and even denying the team dinner on a flight after a bad loss, screaming at the flight attendant for not clearing trays quickly.

Sutter has yet to publicly respond.

David Cunning is the Manager of Athlete Development for BC Hockey and says claims like these are a teaching opportunity at the youth level.

“Hockey is a very funny sport. It has deep-rooted traditions, whether they are good traditions or not,” Cunning tells NEWS 1130.

“A couple of years ago we were talking about hazing. It’s obviously not okay but 20 years ago you grew up as a young rookie on a team and you were hazed by the veterans. Then when you became a veteran, you felt it was your right to do the same. We’ve vanquished that and we don’t do that anymore but the fact of the matter is hockey is always very much looking up the chain — I’ve earned this right to do this thing. We need to break those cycles.”

He points to his own experience as a minor hockey player, saying motivational techniques learned decades ago just don’t work anymore.

“Our coaches used water as a reward sometimes. If you skated hard enough in the bag skate, you got your water. If you didn’t, you kept going. It’s obviously cruel and awful by today’s measures but, for whatever reason, it was okay at the time. Coaches need to keep current and understand their players better. The good coaches will do that and the ones that leave a little to be desired will continue on and, unfortunately, things like this come up.”

Cunning says leagues need to realize “from the top down” that abusive behaviours are wrong.

That starts with the coaching staff, who go through a rigorous screening and BC Hockey certification process.

“Obviously racial slurs are not okay and physical or mental abuse is not okay. We are taking strides on all those things. Our goal is to create a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment.”

The Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association also admits there are still issues that need to be improved upon, including the use of racial slurs.

“I wish I could say this is not a problem, but unfortunately racist remarks can occasionally still be heard in our arenas,” says PCAHA President Lynne Kiang.

“In general, the Minor Hockey Associations, PCAHA and BC Hockey all work together to try to prevent and if needed, manage these sorts of situations. We have a zero tolerance policy,” she writes in an email to NEWS 1130.

“We also have a Respect in Sport Program, an educational program for all our volunteers as well as education in the coaching certification clinics. Our referees, if during a game, will issue a gross misconduct, which triggers an immediate suspension and investigation. If outside of the game, the Minor Hockey Association would investigate and may involve BC Hockey and PCAHA. Appropriate sanctions would be taken.”

Meanwhile, Cunning says there is a silver lining to the accusations being made by some ex-NHLers.

“It is a learning opportunity. Coaches would be remiss if they didn’t remind players they are creating a positive environment where they can talk to that coach anytime. Players need to feel safe on every single front to speak up, to have an opinion, to make a contradiction.”

At the root of it, Cunning believes hockey needs to be fun, not intimidating.

“Kids should not have any issues with coming to the rink and wondering if they are going to get playing time or their teammates or coaches will make fun of them or hit them or hurl racial slurs at them. We need to pride ourselves on creating safe environments.”

-With files from Martin MacMahon