The current crisis at Hockey Canada has shined an unflattering light on all of Canada’s national sports governing bodies, their lack of accountability and, for that matter, their usefulness for the vast majority of participants in the sports they govern.
“I can’t imagine any scenario where the board members at Hockey Canada having to step down will have any influence on hockey on the ground,” MacIntosh Ross, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Western University in London, Ontario, told me. “The lights won’t go out. It’s primarily volunteer driven. It’ll be fine.”
In Canada, national governing bodies are mostly in charge of setting rules, organizing national teams and running major national or international events. The day-to-day work of actually running hockey, or pretty much any sport, falls on provincial and, most important, local and regional groups.
Professor Ross told me that the federal government had little to no power over national sports governing bodies, aside from financial pressure. Government money can be a powerful influence with many smaller sports. But the federal government’s influence over Hockey Canada is minimal, given that it provides only about 6 percent of the organization’s budget.
If, as seems increasingly likely, Hockey Canada is replaced by a new organization, Professor Ross said that it would be important to rethink that organization’s structure and not simply replace the current outfit. Any new governing body, he said, would have to be led by a board with women as at least half of its members and would have to include Indigenous people, people of color and para-athletes and draw from the entire country.
As currently constituted, “50 percent of the board is from Ontario, and Quebec has no one, which is mind-boggling,” he told me. “The board needs to reflect what hockey is now about, not what hockey used to be.”