By John Chidley-Hill in Toronto
Andrea Skinner has submitted her resignation as the interim chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors.
The embattled national sports organization confirmed Skinner’s intention to resign both as chair and as a member of the board on Saturday night. Her imminent departure from Hockey Canada comes after more corporate sponsors and provincial organizations withdrew their support from the national body.
Skinner joined Hockey Canada’s board of directors in November 2020 as a volunteer. She assumed the role of interim chair in August after Michael Brind’Amour resigned from the role after he drew widespread criticism for his handling of allegations of a gang rape involving the 2018 men’s junior national team.
“I am grateful to the Members of Hockey Canada for electing me to the Board of Directors and providing me with the opportunity to make positive change for our game and for Hockey Canada,” said Skinner in a statement released by the organization Saturday.
Hockey Canada has been under fire since May, when it was revealed an undisclosed settlement had been paid to a woman who alleged in a $3.55-million lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted by eight players — including members of the country’s men’s world junior team — after a 2018 gala in London, Ont.
Allegations of gang sexual assault involving the 2003 world junior team emerged in July.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
As government officials and media investigated Hockey Canada’s handling of the 2018 allegations it was discovered that the governing body had maintained two separate funds to pay off sexual assault settlements. Player registration fees — mainly from children — had been the source of the two funds.
The federal government has suspended its funding of Hockey Canada in the aftermath of the allegations and several of its biggest sponsors have paused or ended their relationship with the national sport body.
Skinner vigorously defended Hockey Canada’s executives earlier this week when she appeared via video before members of Parliament alongside Brind’Amour in a Canadian Heritage standing committee meeting in Ottawa.
She insisted hockey shouldn’t be made a “scapegoat” or “centrepiece” for toxic culture that exists elsewhere in society, and referenced politicians who have been accused of sexual misconduct during the Tuesday hearing.
The fallout from Skinner and Brind’Amour’s testimony was nearly immediate.
Nike suspended its support for Hockey Canada on Friday. Hockey Canada’s other three premier partners — Tim Hortons, Esso and Telus — have also suspended support for hockey’s governing body.
Provincial governing organizations for amateur hockey also began to withhold their player fees from Hockey Canada following Tuesday’s hearing.
Hockey N.L. became the latest provincial body to withhold its fees. That organization said in a statement posted Friday to its website it will not be submitting its $3-per-player participant fee to Hockey Canada while the national governing body is under independent review.
Hockey New Brunswick also said Friday it would withhold the fees, following similar moves by provincial hockey federations in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
“Upon reflection, it is clear to me from recent events that it no longer makes sense for me to continue to volunteer my time as Interim Chair or as a Director of the organization,” wrote Skinner in Saturday’s statement.
Skinner, a Toronto lawyer, said she has been “gratified” for the opportunity to work with people in the organization, “despite recent challenges.”
“I sincerely appreciate the support I have received from many Canadians, particularly women, who also seek to positively influence the game and sport,” said Skinner.
At Tuesday’s parliamentary committee meeting, Skinner and Brind’Amour were questioned why Hockey Canada president and chief executive officer Scott Smith had not been fired.
“Our board frankly does not share the view that senior leadership should be replaced on the basis of what we consider to be substantial misinformation and unduly cynical attacks,” Skinner had said.
Canada’s sports minister Pascale St-Onge, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and victims rights advocate Sheldon Kennedy have said current Hockey Canada’s current leadership must quit to allow for culture change in the organization, and to regain public trust.
Trudeau suggested on Thursday that a new national governing body for hockey may have to be created to replace Hockey Canada.
“There needs to be wholesale change, they need to do it, they need to realize that if we have to create an organization — get rid of Hockey Canada — and create an organization called Canada Hockey instead, people will look at doing that,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.
“There is a lack of understanding that they have lost the confidence of Canadians. The sooner they get to that, the better it will be for everyone.”
— With files from Jessica Smith.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2022.
Banner image via The Canadian Press