Former Hockey Canada executive Bob Nicholson to testify before parliamentary committee

Former Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson is scheduled to speak before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Tuesday.

Nicholson has been an executive with the Edmonton Oilers since 2014 and has been the NHL team’s chairman since 2019.

File photo of Bob Nicholson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

He’s been called before the parliamentary committee as part of its ongoing examination of Hockey Canada.

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The national sport organization has been mired in controversy for months over its mishandling of a sexual assault allegation that includes players on the 2018 men’s world junior team.

READ MORE: Hockey Canada signs up with sport integrity commissioner amid abuse scandals

An investigation into that sexual assault has been opened by London, Ont., police and Halifax police are investigating gang rape allegations involving members of the 2003 men’s junior team as well. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Nicholson was in charge of Hockey Canada from 1998 to 2014.

Pat McLaughlin, Hockey Canada’s senior vice-president, is also set to appear before the members of Parliament on Tuesday.

Hockey Canada has been under intense pressure since May when it was revealed the federation 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 Hockey Canada gala in London.

The federal government and corporate sponsors quickly paused financial support, but the ugly headlines continued with the revelation that Hockey Canada had paid the settlement out of the National Equity Fund, which was partly funded by the registration fees of youth players.

Hockey Canada’s former and current board chairs defended the sporting body’s leadership in a hearing before the Canadian Heritage standing committee on Oct 4.

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READ MORE: Hockey Canada needs reimagined leadership with more oversight: governance review

Former chair Michael Brind’Amour said in his testimony that he believed president and CEO Scott Smith had the qualities to “do something positive for the organization.” Interim chair Andrea Skinner told the committee that hockey should not be made a “scapegoat” or “centrepiece” for toxic culture that exists elsewhere.

Within a week of that committee meeting, Hockey Canada had lost the backing of several provincial federations, major sponsors like Nike and Bauer had paused their support, Smith was out, and the entire board of directors had resigned.

The Oilers and their personnel decisions have also been criticized over the past year.

Edmonton signed forward Evander Kane in January after the San Jose Sharks terminated the remainder of his seven-year, US$49-million contract for violating COVID-19 protocols while in the American Hockey League. Kane challenged the Sharks’ decision by filing a grievance through the NHL Players’ Association. The two sides reached a settlement in September.

Kane was also accused of domestic assault in 2021 when his ex-wife Anna Kane filed a restraining order against him during their divorce proceedings, with allegations of sexual assault and multiple alleged instances of domestic battery included in the paperwork.

Kane had received a temporary restraining order against his ex-wife in August 2021, claiming he was abused on four different occasions from 2019 to 2021.

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The NHL investigated the domestic abuse claims against Kane but said in October 2021 the allegations could not be substantiated.

READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers release Jake Virtanen after professional tryout

The Oilers also signed Jake Virtanen to a professional tryout agreement on Sept. 19, after he was found not guilty of sexual assault. The 26-year-old was released from the PTO on Oct. 6.

&© 2022 The Canadian Press

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