A B.C. junior hockey team has been fined and two players suspended after a league investigation into allegations of hazing.
The Creston Valley Thunder Cats have been fined and placed on two years probation by the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) following a week-long investigation into hazing allegations, the league announced on Monday. The amount of the fine was not disclosed.
The team's captain, 20-year-old Clayton Brown, is suspended for 12 games for violating the league's player conduct policy. Alternate captain Campbell McLean, 19, is suspended for six games.
The allegations were reported to the team on Sept. 13, with league officials travelling two days later to conduct interviews with players and coaching staff. The league then suspended team activities, including cancelling an exhibition game.
"What occurred in Creston was unacceptable, and the discipline imposed against the Thunder Cats' organization and members of the team reflects our zero-tolerance approach to these types of incidents," said Commissioner Jeff Dubois in a written statement.
Dubois declined to elaborate on the incident or its severity, but said it was "something that took place in a full-team setting.
"But I'm not going to go into detail in terms of the number of complaints or the number of victims," he told CBC Radio West host Sarah Penton on Tuesday.
Dubois said the team is committed to a safe and inclusive environment for players, staff and fans. The league's regular season begins Sept. 23.
"Our investigation made clear that we have considerable work to do in order to educate our players on the standard of behaviour and leadership expected of them in a team environment," he said.
The team is on a two-year probation period where "it must take proactive steps to ensure a positive team culture free from abuse, bullying and harassment," the league said.
In a statement released over social media on Tuesday, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats said it reported the incident to the KIJHL as soon as it was made aware of the alleged hazing, and has co-operated fully.
"The act of hazing is unacceptable and the club is taking immediate steps to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future," it said.
Dubois said KIJHL will work with the Thunder Cats to ensure their players and staff receive training around harassment, bullying and hazing.
The team is also asked to submit a report, by January, on its efforts to address harassment.
The incident marks the latest in a long list of controversies attached to the sport in Canada that some experts say highlights the need for systemic change within locker rooms and on the ice.
In particular, Hockey Canada — the sport's national governing body — has been under intense scrutiny after two alleged sexual assaults involving world junior players in both 2003 and 2018 came to light this year.
Taylor McKee, assistant professor of sport management at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., said the Thunder Cats incident is far from surprising but acknowledges the league's decision to publicly report the incident could mark a step in the right direction.
"My deep and honest and sincere hope is that this is a culture that's trying to sort of self-reflect and self-correct," he said.
McKee says issues like hazing, however, boil down to dressing room dynamics and team leadership, which is where efforts need to be made to foster a safe environment.
"The way in which leadership culture is understood in hockey is the next piece that's got to change. Leadership, in this sense, is not overseeing absolute draconian views in initiation rites. It needs to evolve past that."