Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

·3 min read
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds
A new Angus Reid poll suggests youth players and coaches are concerned about negative hockey culture. (PhotoStock10/Shutterstock - image credit)
A new Angus Reid poll suggests youth players and coaches are concerned about negative hockey culture. (PhotoStock10/Shutterstock - image credit)

Canada's game continues to grapple with a culture of misogyny, racism and bullying, according to a survey of former youth hockey coaches and players.

More than half (56 per cent) of team alumni polled in a survey by the Angus Reid Institute say they perceive the treatment of women and girls by young male hockey players as misogynistic or disrespectful.

That number climbs to 63 per cent when including people who did not play but identified as being close to the game by cheering on a family member, friend or partner.

More than 1,600 people were surveyed online. More than 400 respondents were former players, coaches, managers or referees.

"What's very notable is that those who have lived experience either on the ice or around the rink ... are much more likely to say that racism is a significant problem, or misogyny or disrespect to women or girls is a problem," said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute.

"When you talk about culture, there can sometimes be some pushback that 'those who have really lived the game are the ones to ask,' and in this case, we did ask — and this is what they told us."

WATCH | CBC reporter Jamie Strashin unpacks the findings of the survey:

Issues with bullying

Among the report's other key findings, 64 per cent of people involved with youth hockey say there is an issue with players bullying kids outside the rink.

As well, half of respondents who say they were close to the game reported concerns about racism, and the vast majority of respondents overall believe participation in the sport is too expensive for lower-income families.

Hockey researcher and Thompson Rivers University professor Taylor McKee says the price point is a big reason why the sport often draws people from the same socioeconomic background and reinforces the negative aspects of hockey culture.

"It comes down to the notion of where these kids are coming from," he told CBC News. "A lot of these kids are from the same backgrounds, they're from the same neighbourhoods."

McKee says the lack of diversity in the locker room can yield a culture of xenophobia.

"Until hockey can do something about that level of expense, you're going to deal with a lot of these environments," he said.

Growing the game

Both professional and minor leagues have organized campaigns encouraging diversity and inclusion, including the NHL's Hockey Is for Everyone movement. A Hockey Diversity Alliance — consisting of current and players — is among the groups fighting systemic racism within the game.

Hockey Canada has launched a campaign called Hockey Is Hers to encourage more women and girls to play.

Coach Liz Montroy says women's hockey has been growing over the years and has received more coverage in the media.
Coach Liz Montroy says women's hockey has been growing over the years and has received more coverage in the media.(Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

For Liz Montroy, a coach with the Vancouver Female Ice Hockey Association, the movement is a step toward a more inclusive game, but there is still work to do.

"It is concerning to hear there are certain groups still acting disrespectfully, but at the same time, I'm comforted to hear that there are people who are working to counteract that and educate and move things in a different direction," she said.

One way to shift the culture is by putting more people from diverse backgrounds and genders into leadership roles.

"Having more women in those areas will, at the end of the day, help move the sport forward in general."