Investigation launched by Hockey Nova Scotia
Ken Barrett alleges hockey players were bullied by Acadia Minor Hockey Association coaching staff last year. An investigation by Hockey Nova Scotia is underway. - John DeCoste
By John DeCoste
Some parents of children in the Acadia Minor Hockey Association are accusing the association and some of its coaches of bullying at a number of levels.
Among other things, parents are alleging “unwarranted yelling and screaming” by coaches directed at players, often including inappropriate language, and disregard of Hockey Nova Scotia rules regarding dressing room conduct and fair play.
“We’re talking 10-, 11- and 12-year-old kids here,” said Ken Barrett, whose son played on the AMHA peewee team in question during the 2012-2013 season.
According to Barrett, young players were regularly subjected to bullying, intimidation and verbal abuse, to the point where several of them were coming home from games in tears and it was affecting their lives outside hockey.
“Just because it’s a hockey dressing room doesn’t give someone licence to abuse kids. A teacher couldn’t do that, or a Boy Scout leader,” Barrett said.
Among the other concerns were young players left unattended in dressing rooms (not permitted under Hockey Nova Scotia rules); male and female players being allowed to dress in the same dressing room (also against Hockey Nova Scotia rules); and concerns over fair play.
At the peewee level, Barrett said, “kids develop physically at different times. Boys and girls aren’t supposed to be dressing in the same room at the peewee level and above. Even if it’s okay with the girls, it may not be okay with all the boys.”
The parents are also concerned with music containing “inappropriate lyrics” being played in the dressing room with young players of both genders present.
“I have nothing against the coaches in question. We’re just wondering why some of these things are being allowed to happen,” Barrett said.
“There are rules in place about this. They’re written down in black and white, and if they aren’t being followed, or being ignored, someone has to step up.”
He suggested many parents were unwilling to voice their concerns due to fear of reprisals against their youngsters.
“No organization,” he said, “should be run through fear and intimidation. If you have a concern, no matter how large or small, you should be 100 per cent able to bring it to someone’s attention and have it dealt with.”
Barrett confirmed that parents first heard about the situation “through our kids. Then parents became aware of it.” There have been numerous complaints made, he claims, starting in November of 2012. But there's been “nothing done about it. Someone has the courage to speak out, and all of a sudden, it’s a big deal.”
Still supportive of AMHA
Barrett said there are “lots of supportive and encouraging coaches” in AMHA. This season, his younger son has a really supportive coach, he said. Similarly, there are “a lot of good people on the board,” but they aren’t necessarily the ones in charge.
Just because it’s a hockey dressing room doesn’t give someone licence to abuse kids. A teacher couldn’t do that, or a Boy Scout leader. AMHA parent Ken Barrett
“Bad things have been allowed to happen because good people either stood by and did nothing or allowed themselves to be pushed aside,” Barrett alleges.
Barrett said he has gotten “lots of support,” though he stressed, “that’s not why I’m doing it. I love hockey, I love to see youngsters grow and develop in the sport.”
At the same time, “I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe is right, and against things I feel aren’t right. There are things going on here that aren’t right.”
Barrett says all of the allegations are backed up by a lengthy trail of emails.
“None of this is made up. It’s all supported by facts and evidence,” he said.
Barrett says he remains supportive of the association, despite the issues.
“I support AMHA every chance I get. I applaud all the good people connected with the association. My issue is with some of the negative people who need to go.”
Hockey NS, AMHA weigh in
Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Darren Cossar confirmed the organization had “received a formal complaint” from AMHA, which it is investigating.
“We’re not prepared to say more while the investigation is ongoing,” he said.
Cossar did confirm “the coach named in the complaint has been removed pending the investigation.”
However, he indicated that “this is not presuming guilt;” rather, it was done “for the protection of everyone involved.”
AMHA president Mike Dauphinee said the Hockey Nova Scotia investigation and legal issues prevented him from commenting in any detail.
Dauphinee did say that one of the coaches in question was not coaching for AMHA at all this season, having “removed himself from any coaching responsibilities on his own initiative” prior to the start of the season.
A second coach – the one under investigation by Hockey Nova Scotia – “withdrew his name effective Oct. 2,” one day before he was suspended by Hockey Nova Scotia from all hockey activities, pending the results of the investigation.
The third coach is still serving as an assistant coach with the team in question.
“Hockey Nova Scotia will continue to investigate” all other matters pertaining to the situation, Dauphinee said. “Right now, that’s all I’m allowed to say.”
He did add, however, “as an association, we absolutely want to see this resolved” to the satisfaction of all concerned.
“This is holding up hockey matters, and there are things not getting done,” he said.