Wild hockey brawl leads to suspensions of 15 players, both head coaches

Members of the Acadia Axemen and St. Francis Xavier X-Men fought during a game in Wolfville, N.S.

Two head coaches and 15 players have been suspended after an ugly university hockey brawl that has raised questions about the sport’s culture of trash talking — and attitudes toward sexual assault.

Atlantic University Sport announced the suspensions Wednesday, after members of the Acadia Axemen and St. Francis Xavier X-Men fought during a game in Wolfville, N.S., on Saturday.

The melee spread from the centre of the ice to both squads’ benches and was captured on video that was circulated widely online.

Six Acadia players and nine from the X-Men were handed automatic suspensions of between two and five games, totalling 39 games. The suspensions also apply to the two head coaches and are effective immediately.

“It’s unfortunate that something like that is even possible in our locker rooms or within our teams in men’s hockey,” AUS executive director Phil Currie said at a news conference in Halifax.

READ MORE: Canada losing ground on abuse and harassment reporting in sports: study

On Monday, St. F.X. issued a statement alleging the brawl was instigated by a derogatory comment related to a sexual assault survivor that was made to an X-Men player. A few hours later, Acadia issued its own statement, saying the information it had gathered was not consistent with allegations made by St. F.X.

On Wednesday, Currie told reporters the alleged comment was directed at St. F.X. player Sam Studnicka, and was something to the effect of, “You’re a little (expletive) rapist.”

“In the comment, the word ‘rapist’ was used, so to a victim of sexual assault, obviously that has a tremendous amount of impact,” Currie told reporters.

“Let me be clear about this: In terms of student athletes in our system, regardless of the sport, making comments like that, it’s just not acceptable or appropriate, and we will address it.”

Currie issued a later clarification saying there was “some consensus” that inappropriate words were used before the melee, but there was a “lack of clarity” about their context, and said further investigation is necessary.

And he added that his reference to “a victim of sexual assault” was meant in a general sense: “This kind of language — in general — can have a negative impact on victims of sexual assault everywhere. I apologize if I misspoke or if my words were misinterpreted.”

Also on Wednesday, Currie was asked about the place of so-called “chirping” in hockey, were players often try to gain an edge through insulting or making fun of their opponents. He said while he doesn’t see the need for it, it would be hard to police in every instance.

“One of the things that we’ve tried to do in university sport, one of the reasons we don’t have fighting in university sport, is an attempt to change the culture in the hockey world. I think potentially, this is related to a cultural issue and (it’s) not acceptable in a university environment. We don’t condone it in any way, shape or form.”

Currie has also filed official complaints on five athletes and three coaches involved in Saturday’s incident after reviewing video evidence.

That means they will be subject to a secondary review process, which will involve the AUS sport chair “gathering additional evidence and speaking directly with players, officials and coaches involved to determine where more severe sanctions are warranted,” a statement said.

In a statement Wednesday, Acadia University called the fighting incident “unacceptable” and said it accepts the ruling by the AUS.

The university also acknowledged that one of its players made an “inappropriate comment containing a particular word” to a St. FX player.

“The Acadia student-athlete admitted and took responsibility immediately after the game and extended an apology,” the statement said.

However, the university said it disputes that the comment was made deliberately or that it was “made with the intent and in the context in which it has been portrayed in mainstream and social media.”

For its part, St. F.X. said little in an emailed response. “St. F.X. is honouring the decision of the AUS. We have no further comment.”

On Monday, Studnicka issued a statement saying that over his three-year AUS career, “I have been challenged in dealing with insulting and derogatory comments on the ice pertaining to the shaming of a sexual assault survivor.”

“It has taken an emotional toll on me, and it has been frustrating that one AUS hockey program in particular has elicited repeated on-ice comments directed towards me,” said Studnicka.

“There is no place for such comments within our society. Sexual assault is a very serious issue and there is simply no place for shaming sexual assault survivors, ever.”

Currie confirmed that he was informed about the issue two years ago by both schools after they had discussed it and had found a solution that was “satisfactory to all parties involved.”

He said while he didn’t know what they agreed to, there were no complaints brought to his attention last season. Currie did say comments had been made by teams other than Acadia, although he didn’t elaborate.

“It flies against all the missions of our institutions,” Currie said. “We need to be solid and strong on how we address the rest of this.”

Acadia’s statement Wednesday also called into question reports the inappropriate comments were an ongoing issue. The school said the issue involving St. FX was brought to them two years ago.

READ MORE: B.C. groups to address child sex abuse in sports

“They were dealt with at that time and there have been no such incidents since then. Those earlier incidents occurred before the Acadia student-athlete involved in Saturday’s incident joined its hockey program.”

It said the published statements on Monday by St. FX had led to an “outpouring of comments and commentary, including personal threats directed to members of the Acadia community, that are a reaction to a narrative that simply is not true.”

“We are acutely aware of the importance of making every effort to eliminate sexual violence and re-victimization of survivors everywhere in our society. We believe our student-athletes, coaches, and every member of the Acadia community have an obligation to act as role models in our communities and this standard was not met on Saturday night.”

The university said it is working with St. FX to address the incident and the two schools would be making a joint statement in the future.

Acadia was scheduled to play at Saint Mary’s University Wednesday night, while St. F.X. was set to return to action Friday at the University of New Brunswick.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RedRover talks animal care

Nicole Forsyth, Executive Director of RedRover, spoke in the Burns Lake Public… Continue reading

Alternative arts fest at LDSS

Lakes District Secondary School held its Alternative Arts Festival on May 28.… Continue reading

Smithers man receives two-year sentence for fatal car crash

Over a year after a fatal crash, a Smithers man has been sentenced to two years plus a day in jail.

RDBN opts to join entrepreneur immigration pilot scheme

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) will back a candidate under the… Continue reading

Ultrasound for Burns Lake hospital possible, Northern Health says

Northern Health is considering the possibility of bringing ultrasound services to the… Continue reading

Raptors announcer credited with calming massive crowd after shooting

Matt Devlin, the Raptors’ play-by-play announcer since 2008, was praised for preventing panic from spreading

Women sue former Vancouver cop over alleged sexual abuse during pimp case

Two women claim James Fisher caused psychological trauma during the Reza Moazami investigation

First ever Indigenous person to join the RCMP to be honoured in B.C.

Hawk Kelly said becoming a Mountie was his dream job as a kid

Sexting teens at risk of harms including depression, substance use: study

Use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana were also found to be associated with sexting

Deadline for cabinet to decide future of Trans Mountain expansion is today

International Trade Minister Jim Carr described the decision as ‘very significant’

Mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of B.C. inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

Dash-cam video in trial of accused B.C. cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Most Read