Women’s hockey players fear financial fallout from frozen Hockey Canada funding
The federal government suspending funding for Hockey Canada due to issues far removed from the Women’s National Team may still affect it.
The Canadian women’s and para hockey teams rely heavily on federal funds to operate.
The bulk of training costs for men’s teams are paid for by professional or junior clubs that loan players to Hockey Canada for international tournaments.
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So when federal sports minister Pascale St-Onge froze funding for Hockey Canada over its handling of an alleged sexual assault by members of the 2018 World Junior Men’s Team, women grew concerned about financial benefits for their team.
“It’s a concern, for sure,” forward Blayre Turnbull said. “We think of ourselves as professional athletes without a professional paycheck.
“A lot of our money comes from the government and other organizations like that. Our program would be greatly affected if the freezing of funds continued to occur.”
Of the 142 senior and development players currently attending a camp in Calgary, 19 women won Olympic gold in Beijing in February.
The first women’s world championship to take place in the same calendar year as the Olympics begins on August 25 in Denmark.
The Canadians will look to defend the world title won a year ago in Calgary where they edged the USA in overtime in the final.
Their preparation in Denmark is not cut short, but the financial future of the women’s program looks murky for the players under the current sanctions.
“It’s a valid concern, especially in the long term,” Gina Kingsbury, director of hockey operations for women’s teams at Hockey Canada, told The Canadian Press. “We’re entering territory that we don’t fully understand. I try to focus on what I can control.
“In the short term, the message from Hockey Canada was that we will not be affected here this season. It is normal to think long term, what are these impacts? If it affects Hockey Canada in the long term, it affects our women’s program.
St-Onge suspended funding to Hockey Canada after TSN’s Rick Westhead reported that the organization had reached a financial settlement with a woman alleging members of the 2018 World Junior Men’s Team sexually assaulted her during a a Hockey Canada event.
Hockey Canada later revealed members of the 2003 World Junior Men’s Team were being investigated for alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia. The allegations have not been proven in court.
But federal money is withheld until Hockey Canada meets St-Onge’s terms. These include a financial audit of the organization, the production of recommendations for an investigation report by a third-party law firm, the development of an action plan to change the culture and the signature of the Office of the Integrity Commissioner.
Hockey Canada has taken steps to meet those conditions, but St-Onge told MPs last week that the money would not start again “until we are satisfied that the conditions are met”.
“I think it’s really important that these issues are addressed, that we get to the bottom of it,” striker Brianne Jenner said. “That’s the hope and I think all Canadians want to see that.”
The women’s team received $6 million in Own the Podium funding in the four years leading up to Beijing, where Canada edged out the United States for gold, while the men’s teams received $1.8 million. dollars during the same four-year period.
OTP paid out $4 million in the Beijing quad to the men’s Para hockey team that won silver.
The women hope they won’t pay a disproportionate price for the actions of others under the Hockey Canada umbrella.
“Actions have consequences and people are held accountable for those actions, but what I do know is that the women’s hockey culture that we’ve created, and it’s taken a lot of work, is a safe environment,” said defender Jocelyne Larocque. “I think the Canadians who follow us know that.”
As full-time high performance athletes, female and para hockey athletes receive monthly checks from Sport Canada’s Athlete Assistance Program (AAP) of approximately $1,800 per month.
Sport Canada has confirmed that these checks will continue.
“There has been no suspension of AAP funding to athletes carded in the Women’s National Team or Paralympic program,” a spokeswoman told The Canadian Press in an email.
Although Imperial Oil, Scotiabank and TELUS have withdrawn their sponsorship of the men’s world junior hockey championship, these companies have indicated that they will continue to financially support youth programs and women’s events.
“I hope the public understands that our women’s game is healthy, that the culture we’re talking about doesn’t quite apply on our side,” Kingsbury said.
“We’re proud of the culture and environment we’re building, we’re proud of the program we have, we’re proud of the people who are part of this program, top to bottom.”