Abuse Allegations Surface Against the OHL
According to David Branch, the commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League, his organization has failed the players it sought to protect.
According to Branch, he had no idea how bad the hazing was for iconic players like Daniel Carcillo. Carcillo and many of his peers took their allegations of brutal hazing public this week, leading the OHL commissioner to call the allegations ‘sickening’ in a recent CBC Sports interview.
In his own words, the OHL has failed Carcillo and many other players involved, and it’s nothing short of shocking. Over the past week, four members of the 2002/2003 Sarnia Sting have stepped forward to tell their sides of events when it came to what they went through nearly two decades ago.
Carcillo Details His Experiences
Carcillo, who went on two win two Stanley Cups while playing with the Chicago Blackhawks, says that he moved out of home at age 17 to chase his dreams of joining the NHL and ‘making something of [himself]’. However, he calls what himself and 11 of his peers had to endure as being ‘daily abuse’.
The player detailed being pushed into a bus bathroom while completely naked and having his teammates spit tobacco juice all over him. He also mentioned that other players had been routinely stripped naked, tied up, and beaten with a rough and jagged goalie stick. His teammates, including goaltender Ryan Munce, were quick to corroborate Carcillo’s story, as well as to tell their own.
Munce recalled that there were guys ‘acting like the KKK’ simply because he had been dating a girl of a different nationality at the time. He remembers them ‘doing Hitler signs’ in front of one of his Jewish teammates as well, to the point where he was frequently in tears. There was constant abuse going on all day and every day, Munce said, including players being strapped to tables and beaten with belts for being the ‘rookie of the day’.
Zero-Tolerance Policies on Hazing
David Branch says that Carcillo contacted him in person during the season in question to talk about what was happening in Sarnia. He says that he paid the team a visit to investigate their allegations, but was told by coaching and management staff that no serious incidents had taken place.
Branch recalls one situation that the teens described that, while he did consider it dangerous, didn’t merit any formal discipline in his eyes. The commissioner remembers this being the extent of the knowledge he had about the incidents at Sarnia at the time.
Major changes came to the league in 2005 when a strict set of rules, fines and suspensions were put in place to prevent hazing after a saga with the Windsor Spitfires. Branch says that this is the first time he became aware of initiation and hazing issues, but has nonetheless stepped forward to take accountability and has now forced the OHL to adopt a complete zero-tolerance policy on the practices.