Stan Bowman resigned as General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks this week.

Canada Loves Hockey, But Will That Love Last?

The hockey world was shaken this week with more insight into the horrifying sexual assault case within the Chicago Blackhawks organization.

Kyle Beach, a former first-round pick of the club revealed himself to be the “John Doe” in the original report which outlined sexual assault allegations against former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich.

Beach, then a 20-year-old “Black Ace” with the team says Aldrich assaulted him during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs in an incident that would be essentially brushed aside and ignored by Blackhawks coaches and senior management.

This week, both Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman and Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville (then the coach of the Blackhawks) resigned from their positions for their undeniable roles in the scandal. The report released this week detailed that not only were Bowman and Quenneville made aware of the incident, but neither did anything to remedy the situation.

Quenneville would write a letter of recommendation for Aldrich at some point afterward. Aldrich would then go on to be convicted of sexual assault of a high school student in Michigan.

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was also with the Blackhawks and present in meetings about the incident, according to the report.

This summer, Cheveldayoff, Bowman and Quenneville all denied any knowledge of the incident.

The entire situation is a sickening reminder of the dark side of hockey and sports. There is clearly a toxicity that pervades organizations and sport that allows people to behave in an irrational manner.

What else would allow winning to take precedence over something as serious as what Kyle Beach had to go through? If any of the people involved found out their house was on fire, would they ignore it? Surely not, so why would they ignore a fire within their organization? Within the team? Within the locker room itself?

There have been countless comments in the days following the release of details of the incident from people saying it was harder to watch hockey this week. Can you blame them? Hockey is supposed to be fun. It’s a game. The stakes are high at the professional level with millions of dollars in salaries and endorsements on the line, but it’s still a game. A game that is undeniable woven into the fabric of Canadian society.

How Important Is Hockey To Canadian Society?

According to this chart supplied by Statista, 82 percent of Canadians believe hockey is either important, very important or extremely important to Canada’s cultural and social fabric.

Among the youngest group surveyed (18-34), 32 percent believe hockey is extremely important to Canada’s culture. That was the largest of any age group. Overall, only 4 percent of people believed that hockey is not at all important to Canada’s social fabric.

As if we needed any more evidence that hockey matters in Canada, this next chart, provided by Statista, spells it out in an interesting way.

Countries by number of ice hockey rinks in 2019/20

Despite a much smaller population than many other countries on the list, Canada has by far the most indoor hockey rinks in the world – almost double that of the United States.

Consider that Germany, a country that has its own professional hockey league, is growing the sport exponentially and has more than double the population of Canada, has about ten times fewer indoor hockey rinks as Canada.

When it comes to outdoor rinks, Canada is a giant once again. Only Russia has more, and although climate certainly plays a role, it is a big staggering that Canada has about ten times as many outdoor rinks as the United States and about 100 times more than any Scandinavian country.

There’s no doubting that Canada loves hockey. We know that we are inextricably linked with the sport and there’s no escaping it in Canadian pop culture, advertising, media or water cooler talk.

But incidents like that which Kyle Beach endured, incidents that shed light on the ugly inner workings of the system, lead to some inevitable questions: What else don’t we know? Who else is suffering in silence?

Beach’s story might be the tip of the iceberg. At what point do hockey fans start to tune out if there’s a shipwreck on the horizon?