Hockey Canada's incoming board to be selected by committee, not a wider vote

Hockey Canada's independent nomination committee will select eight directors and a new board chair from more than 550 applicants instead of putting candidates up for a wider vote, according to a letter sent to provincial and territorial members.

In the document dated Thursday, the committee said it is "hard at work" and "very encouraged" by the resumes received from Canadians hoping to head the sport's national organization following a scandal-filled six months that led to the departure of president and CEO Scott Smith and the resignation of the board in October.

But the letter added the committee is making "very hard choices" to pare down the list to just nine names that will be put forward to members ahead of the Dec. 17 board vote.

Nomination committee chair Mike Bruni told The Canadian Press in an email the 13 provincial and territorial members under Hockey Canada's umbrella authorized the format, adding the vote will be for the entire slate — not individual candidates.

The Calgary-based lawyer said with a "very thorough vetting and interview process" and assistance from an outside management consulting firm, the committee is "fully confident" in the process.

Hockey Canada has faced intense scrutiny since May when it was revealed the organization quietly settled a lawsuit after a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of the country's world junior team, following a 2018 gala in London, Ont.

The federal government and corporate sponsors either paused or halted financial support, but the ugly headlines continued with the revelation of the so-called National Equity Fund (NEF), which is maintained by registration fees and used to pay uninsured liabilities, including sexual assault and abuse claims.

Hockey Canada then announced members of the 2003 men's world junior roster were being investigated for a group sexual assault before an official testified on Parliament Hill in July the organization has paid out millions to victims since the late 1980s.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The nomination committee's letter said the body is made up of seven people from Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.

The committee is appointed by the board chair, but Andrea Skinner, who held the interim role after Michael Brind'Amour resigned in August, stepped down in October.

That move came on the heels of a disastrous performance in front of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which has been looking into Hockey Canada, where she defended Smith and said the sport should not be made a "scapegoat" for toxic culture that exists elsewhere.

In its letter, the committee praised the "depth and scope" of candidates looking to fill Hockey Canada's board following an independent governance review led by former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell.

The report made a number of recommendations related to leadership, transparency and how the NEF and two other funds should be managed moving forward.

"It is impossible to read the resumes and cover letters and not have a very good feeling about the future of hockey in Canada," Bruni is quoted in the letter. "It is truly amazing how the country has responded in such a positive way."

Bruni didn't respond to a follow-up email question about candidate names being released before the Dec. 17 vote, but said the transition board set to be elected on a one-year term is "unique" and a result of "urgent priorities" outlined in Cromwell's recommendations.

"The most effective way to do it is by way of the formulation of a slate by a nominating committee," Bruni wrote. "Going forward the process could be very different and will be in the hands of the new board and the members."

He added that if the provincial and territorial members don't approve the group of nine set to be put forward next month, Hockey Canada wouldn't be able to move forward with respect to governance and hiring a new CEO.

"Clearly not an ideal situation," he wrote. "The nominating committee is doing all in its authority to avoid this by putting forth the best possible slate of directors and chair.

"We are more than confident in achieving this objective. It will be then up to the members."

The committee wrote in its letter it received pitches from police officers, teachers, business leaders, immigrants, surgeons, hockey parents, Olympians, Paralympians, politicians, judges and a pastry chef "who set out a recipe for rebuilding the Hockey Canada organization."

"The downside with so many willing to help, is turning away outstanding candidates," the letter read. "The tone at the top is very important.

"The Hockey Canada chair and board will need to restore public confidence in their decision-making process right out of the gate."

— With files from Rosa Saba in Toronto.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press