Changing toxic hockey culture through leadership, dedication, and conversation

By Catherine Garrett and Hana Mae Nassar

An organization dedicated to promoting inclusivity in hockey says work needs to continue to address toxic culture within the sport and beyond.

Work has been ongoing to break the cycle, but those behind Pride Tape say education and speaking openly about the issue are key.

Pride Tape co-founder Dr. Kristopher Wells tells CityNews while changes to policy won’t happen overnight, what will help in this process is strong leadership, dedication, and sustained commitment.

“We’re trying to break apart all of those long-outdated stereotypes to not only grow the space of inclusion within hockey but use sport for its greatest power, which is to produce wonderful human beings who lead by example,” Wells explained.

“It needs to start right at peewee level and move forward, as these players become socialized into an environment that can be very toxic and damaging.”

Wells says the issue comes down to conversations about masculinity, or rather “masculinities.”

“Recognizing that you don’t have to be sexist or homophobic or misogynistic to be accepted within your peer group or locker room,” he added.

Conversations around the toxicity within hockey culture have been ongoing. However, they’ve resurfaced in recent weeks, with sexual assault charges being laid against five members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior hockey team.

However, Wells admits some of the rhetoric around what what people believe is driving certain behaviours are oversimplifying a very complex issue.

“I think people are trying to look for simple answers to a complex problem,” he explained.

“It’s much more than that. There are many contributing factors. But the only way change is going to happen is through education, conversation, and through leadership that will enable those important conversations to happen. But this isn’t just about what needs to happen within hockey, it’s also about what needs to happen in our larger society. These values, many of them are often learned at home. Parents have an important role to play here in enabling these conversations. Sharing their values, talking about the importance of treating women and other individuals with respect and decency. It’s so important that as families, we’re leading by example.”

Wells is encouraging young players to stand up for a change in culture, noting, often, that environment is about “fitting in and going along with behaviour.” However, he says it takes real courage to say no and to instead lead by example.

His messaging for players is simple: “be a good, decent person.”

“I think it’s really important that we name what is happening and don’t shy away from responsibility,” Wells continued. “That’s the only way change is going to happen and that’s the only way that justice is going to be brought to those who have been so horrifically victimized.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today