Okezonee.id – Edmonton, Alberta —The pandemic shifted one of Canada’s longstanding holiday rituals, the World Junior Championship,
from December to the middle of summer. But even allowing for that, the absence of a crowd before the Canadian team’s first game this week was striking.
In a fan zone with sprawling television screens outside of the N.H.L. arena in downtown Edmonton, a D.J. entertained
a group that never surpassed a dozen people in the hour before Canada took on Latvia in its first game.
Up a long escalator, the number of open gates into Rogers Place often exceeded the number of people passing through them.
And once inside, a preponderance of empty seats allowed the chants of eight enthusiastic Latvian supporters to be heard by all.
In a country that many claim is defined by hockey, there have traditionally been three mandatory rituals for fans:
the Stanley Cup finals, men’s and women’s Olympic hockey and the men’s world juniors.
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Several of the spectators who did show up for Canada’s opening game said its transformation into a shadow of a tournament was only partly explained by its unseasonal rescheduling.
In May, TSN, a sports television network, reported that Hockey Canada, the national governing body, paid 3.5 million Canadian dollars to settle
a lawsuit by a woman who accused eight members of the world junior team of sexually assaulting her in 2018.
ImageThere has been relatively little interest in Hockey Canada merchandise at the tournament.Credit…Ian Austen/The New York Times
Matters only got worse. Hockey Canada acknowledged that the money came from a slush fund generated from hockey registration fees, including those for children.
The fund, it also said, had been used to pay another 7.6 million dollars to settle nine sexual assault and sexual abuse claims since 1989.
It then emerged that there were further allegations of sexual assault involving another national junior team in 2003.
While shocking, they are far from the first reports of sexual assault and abuse by and against hockey players.
But the current scandal appears to have shaken the faith that some Canadians have in a sport that is almost as much an obsession as a national pastime.
Just outside the largely empty entrance gates, Jen Rutledge, a civil engineer with the City of Edmonton and an Edmonton Oilers season-ticket holder,
said she was using the ticket purchased long ago only because a cousin visiting from England wanted to catch a game.
“I’m a bit conflicted, honestly, about me even attending this tournament,” she said.
“To hear about player fees being paid into a fund that goes toward silencing victims of some of these teams is really quite concerning.
Hockey is an important part of Canadian culture. But, at the same time, there have been a lot of atrocities done by this organization.”
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