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Statement from the Interim Chair of Hockey Canada

August 23, 2022

Hello, my name is Andrea Skinner. As you may know, I have recently been appointed by the Board of Directors as Interim Chair of the Board, with the support of Hockey Canada’s regional, provincial and territorial Members.

Hockey has been of fundamental importance to me throughout my life. I played minor hockey right through to University hockey, captaining the Cornell Women’s hockey team my senior year where I also achieved academic honours. I have officiated at the highest levels of women’s hockey, and I was an assistant coach for the University of Ottawa varsity hockey team while obtaining my law degree. Meaningful community involvement has always been a high priority for me. I was encouraged to seek election to the Hockey Canada Board of Directors in November 2020 as a way of giving back to the sport that has been so important to me and my family.

I am aware that Hockey Canada’s leadership, including its senior staff and our volunteer Board of Directors, have lately come under intense scrutiny and that many have unanswered questions. I hope to address some of those questions in this letter and going forward over the next several weeks.

There has been much talk about a toxic culture in our sport and a culture of silence. When we use these phrases we are talking about behaviours that are contrary to values of safety, fair play, team work, respect, and authenticity. Toxic behaviours can include bullying, name-calling, disrespectful or demeaning language, using or threatening violence, harassment, gender-based maltreatment, sexism, racism and sexual abuse or assault. While tens of thousands of players and parents across our country have never experienced such unacceptable behaviour in hockey, any instance of this behaviour – in hockey or elsewhere - is an instance too many.

I believe we must name and address the specific behaviours we want to see eradicated from our game and from our society. We must better educate and train our players, coaches, officials, parents and volunteers. They should be empowered and encouraged to speak up and call out bad behaviour when it takes place. This requires a collective effort – a team effort – from all of us involved in the sport.

Our Board of Directors: Who We Are

I want to tell you briefly about our current Board of Directors. Our Board was elected in November 2020. It was the first Board elected under updated by-laws which were amended in 2019 to require the involvement of an independent nominating committee in the Board elections, and to require a minimum of two men and two women to be elected to the Board. Following the November 2020 election, three women and six men were elected to the Board. Three of us on the Board have young children – parents of minor hockey players or future minor hockey players. Subsequently, one of the women elected to our Board was appointed to sit as a judge on the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Her place on the Board was filled by one of our current Board members who was elected by our Members across the country. He has, in my view, been a great addition to the Board. Recently, our former Board Chair resigned. He was a francophone, a lawyer, and an individual who I respect; someone who paused his law practice in order to volunteer full-time for Hockey Canada.

Our Board brings a broad range of personal and professional experience, both inside and outside of hockey. We have representation from different ethnic and cultural communities, including from the indigenous community, and from the LGBT2Q+ community.

A number of our Board members, including me, have full time jobs. Each of us have devoted hundreds of hours away from family and from our jobs to work as a volunteer Director.

Over the coming weeks, we will further respond to some of the misinformation directed at or related to the Board and its work.

As recently as earlier this week, I read media reports about alleged “perks” that past Board members may have received while serving on the Board of Directors. I cannot speak to what happened in the past. Our current Board is governed by a Directors Code of Conduct which was most recently revised in March 2020. This document sets out the duties and responsibilities of Directors, provides direction with respect to identifying and avoiding conflict of interest, and stipulates rules with respect to gifting and hospitality, which include:

“Directors shall not directly or indirectly offer or accept cash payments, gifts, gratuities, privileges or personal rewards, which are either intended, or would objectively be perceived as being intended, to create an indebtedness for the purpose of influencing the activities or affairs of Hockey Canada... .”

I am not aware of any current Board member who has violated our Directors Code of Conduct.

What We Have Accomplished

Since I have been on the Board, we have brought forward new ideas and perspectives, with a particular focus on making the game more inclusive and accessible to all Canadians. These are concepts that our provincial, regional and territorial Members have embraced. It is clearly reflected in our new Strategic Plan which will guide us over the next four years.

The Board has several Standing Committees, Ad Hoc Committees, and Task Teams. Our Committees and Task Teams are comprised of both staff representatives and a cross-section of dedicated volunteers, all of whom are committed to making hockey better.

Since our election in late 2020, our Board and the organization have made considerable advancements. For example:

  • In June 2021, the provincial, regional and territorial Members and our Board approved a new playing rule, Rule 11.4, with a view to calling out particular attention to – and tracking – incidents of discriminatory taunts, insults or intimidation both on and off the ice. Through game incident reports and other reporting mechanisms, we are collecting data on the prevalence of maltreatment inside and outside the game which we will then be able to use to take further, active steps to eliminate unacceptable behaviours from our sport as much as we possibly can.
  • In June 2022, following extensive work and input by a specialized Task Team comprised of subject matter experts and Board liaison, Kirk Lamb, the Board adopted a fully inclusive gender expression and gender identity policy, in support of Hockey Canada’s commitment to providing a safe, supportive, and respectful environment for all of our registered participants, including transgender participants.
  • Earlier this year, as a result of the work of our Risk Management Standing Committee, chaired by Board Member Mary Anne Veroba and with the integral assistance of Hockey Canada staff, Hockey Canada created a national template maltreatment policy, modeled after and consistent with the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport, that was shared with each of our provincial, regional and territorial Members.
  • As a result of the tireless work of the volunteer members of our Female Hockey Policy Committee and our Women’s Hockey Canadian Development Model Working Group, led by Board liaison Barry Reynard, our girls and women’s hockey program has made incredible strides over the past few years. Many of the recommendations from these groups are incorporated into our new Strategic Plan.
  • In the spring of 2021, these two female hockey groups led a two day national forum on the state of women’s hockey and women’s leadership in hockey in Canada, which was a resounding success. It was a testament to the growth of women’s hockey and the leadership of women within the game, and also an opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas for how we can continue to support and grow the women’s game. As a Board, we are committed to capitalizing on this momentum.
  • Our Coaching Task Team, which includes dedicated volunteers from across the country, developed and added new content within the Hockey Canada Coaching certification process with regards to ensuring a safe environment for players, with topics like maltreatment, social media, transformational coaching, and security management.
  • Our Officiating Task Team, comprised of staff and subject matter expert volunteers across the country, developed a new standardized national curriculum for the education of officials, with a view to achieving consistency and excellence in officiating from coast to coast.
  • Under the oversight of the Human Resources Standing Committee, Hockey Canada has undertaken a third party “Human Resources Health Check” which involved a review of all operational and management policies, practices, processes and approaches to ensure legal compliance and alignment with industry best practices.
  • Hockey Canada engaged a third party to undertake a Diversity and Inclusion Roadmap exercise with a view to identifying and achieving short and long-term diversity, equity and inclusion objectives.

Our Commitment

Despite these tangible and constructive advances to our game, we have identified areas where the organization can be and needs to be better. We are committed more than ever to foster and maintain a safe and positive environment where people can experience the enormous benefits of participating in our national sport, whether as a player, coach, official, parent, volunteer or fan.

While the Board is up for re-election later this year, we are steadfast in our commitment to continue to take steps to improve our game. The governance review and the implementation of our Action Plan will assist us with continuing to make positive changes for the organization and for the game of hockey.

Shakita Jensen.

Giving back through coaching

Guided by influential coaches during her playing days, Shakita Jensen knew she wanted to give back to the game she loved by becoming a coach in her hometown

Shannon Coulter
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July 04, 2024

It was a full circle moment for Shakita Jensen when she stepped on the bench as head coach of Team Northwest Territories at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games.

In 2014, she played in the tournament in Alaska. A decade later, she returned to Alaska to coach.

“I felt a lot of emotions,” says Jensen, the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner in the Competitive category.

Jensen, from the Tahltan First Nation, started as an on-ice volunteer with the Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association in 2014. Since then, her passion for giving back has driven her to continue her coaching journey.

“The hockey community has given me so much that I felt an obligation to want to give back to the hockey community in any way I could,” Jensen says. “When I got back from school, I was like, ‘I should probably try coaching, see if I like it.’ And of course I liked it right away.”

In addition to giving back, a few impactful women who coached Jensen growing up opened her eyes to her own potential journey.

“Having my first female head coach was super cool, and that made me want to get into coaching,” she says. “Growing up, being sometimes the only girl on my hockey teams, not really many women coaching, and then having my first few female coaches thinking, ‘Wow they’re so cool, I want to be like them one day.’”

The position of being a role model and a leader for youth in her community was also a driving factor in wanting to become a coach.

“I’ve had so many influential coaches in my own playing career. [There are] everlasting impacts they can have on their players, not only on the ice, but off the ice as people as well, what you can teach your players as a coach. I felt that I had lots to offer [as a head coach] and I wanted to be there for kids.”

Shakita Jensen coaching Team NWT at a One For All practice.

 Jensen was in the right place at the right time to get her first head coaching position. There was a shortage of coaches in her association, so they asked Jensen—who initially applied to be an on-ice helper—if she wanted to be a head coach.

“It was a lot of quick learning and kind of being thrown into it, but I felt confident in myself the whole time,” the 26-year-old explains. “I just tried to network with past coaches as much as I could to have a successful season, which I think I did.”

Early in her career, Jensen decided to apply to be a part of the 2023 Canada Winter Games coaching staff for Team NWT, but she wasn’t selected. However, one of the coaches recommended she apply for the Aboriginal Apprentice Coach program with the Aboriginal Sports Circle.

“They chose one woman and one man from the territory, and it could be from any sport, so I knew that it was a bit of a long shot, but when I heard I got in for hockey, I was super excited.”

Through the apprenticeship program, Jensen was able to attend last year’s Canada Winter Games on Prince Edward Island and work with Team NWT leading up to the event. Afterwards, she became an assistant coach for Team NWT for the 2023 Arctic Winter Games before being promoted to head coach for the 2024 tournament.

“I think that definitely opened a lot of doors,” she says. “It was cool to see the progression and to allow me to gain all the tools and resources that I needed to prepare my team.”

As head coach of Team NWT, the location of each player’s hometowns can often be difficult to navigate—sometimes resulting in very few full team practices before an event.

“It was definitely a challenge wanting to build your team culture and work on your strategies and trying to prepare for a high-performance, short-term competition when your team is scattered all over the territories, in some places that are fly in/fly out or just a lot of money barriers,” she explains. “I think one thing that was super helpful was our ability to connect online leading up to the Games.”

Another huge opportunity for Jensen’s team this year was February’s One For All event in Yellowknife. With more than 300 participants over four days, the event celebrated women’s and girls’ hockey with Try Hockey events, on-ice skills, coaching clinics and more.

Team Northwest Territories and Team Nunavut gathered to practice and face off in an exhibition game.

“It was an overwhelming successful weekend—players putting on their hockey gear for the first time and then other players who were about to be graduating minor hockey,” says Jensen, who volunteered with the event. “It felt super to contribute to that program, give back and hopefully keep that program on a yearly basis here.”

When Jensen found out she was the BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner for Hockey North in the Competitive category, she was shocked.

“I was so surprised, kind of caught off guard. I felt so much pride and gratitude.”

Jensen was unsure if she would be able to compete with the great provincial and territorial candidates across the country. But when she saw Cassie Campbell-Pascall on a video call congratulating her for winning the national award, she was in disbelief all over again.

“There are really no words,” she says of winning the national award. “There are so many influential coaches who go unrecognized sometimes for all the work they do. [I’m] really feeling proud of myself, but also feeling proud of everyone else across Canada who’s doing so much for the women’s game.”

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SportsPay becomes Preferred Payment Partner of Hockey Canada

National partnership effective immediately

NR.035.24
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May 22, 2024

CALGARY, Alberta – Hockey Canada has announced SportsPay as its Preferred Payment Partner, through a national partnership which is effective immediately.

A leading payment provider for amateur sports organizations in Canada, SportsPay is proudly Canadian and has been a long-time supporter of amateur hockey in Canada.

Through its partnership with Hockey Canada, SportsPay will support the processing of online transactions, including through the Hockey Canada Registry.

“SportsPay prides itself on providing user-friendly experiences to Canadian sport organizations, and we are excited to officially welcome them as Hockey Canada’s Preferred Payment Partner to deliver those experiences to local hockey associations across the country,” said Dean McIntosh, Hockey Canada’s senior vice-president of revenue, fan experience and community impact. “The Hockey Canada Registry is used to process hundreds of thousands of registrations each season, and through our partnership with SportsPay, we’re pleased that the platform will continue to meet the needs of our participants and associations.”

"I am very excited to enhance our 20-year relationship with Hockey Canada and to support minor hockey across Canada," said Will Gravlev, president of POSconnect Inc. and creator of SportsPay. "Everyone at SportsPay is continuously committed to providing simple and effective payments for amateur sports and keeping leagues focused on what matters."

To learn more about Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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Nominations open for BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award

Program recognizes top women in coaching positions across the country

NR.088.23
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December 01, 2023

CALGARY, Alberta – The nomination phase for the BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award is now open, with applications being accepted to recognize the best women behind the bench across Canada until March 31, 2024.

Now in its fifth season, the program has honoured 80 coaches, with representation from all 13 Hockey Canada Members.

“Coaches have such a significant impact on the lives of participants, and each year we are thrilled to celebrate some of the best with the BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award,” said Marin Hickox, vice-president of women’s and girls’ hockey for Hockey Canada. “We are grateful for BFL CANADA’s support of this program and look forward to honouring this year’s winners in the spring.”

Nominations for the Community and Competitive categories can be submitted here.

All provincial and territorial winners will receive bursaries, while the national winners will also participate in professional development opportunities.

The BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award was rebranded this season to reflect Hockey Canada’s commitment to using consistent and inclusive language throughout its women’s and girls’ hockey programs and awards.

A list of last year’s winners can be found here.

To learn more about Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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Hockey Canada publishes report on maltreatment in sanctioned hockey

Data expands on findings in last year’s inaugural report on Rule 11.4 – Discrimination

NR.087.23
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November 30, 2023

CALGARY, Alberta – Hockey Canada and its Members have published a Tracking Maltreatment in Sanctioned Hockey report, which includes nation-wide data collected during the 2022-23 season from two independent complaint management mechanisms and all rules in Section 11 of the Hockey Canada Playing Rules.

The information contained in this report is an important step in Hockey Canada’s ongoing efforts to better track, identify and respond to maltreatment in hockey.

In December 2022, Hockey Canada and its Members published a report of all incidents of verbal taunts, insults or intimidation based on discriminatory grounds which occurred during the 2021-22 season, under Rule 11.4 – Discrimination.

The Tracking Maltreatment in Sanctioned Hockey report includes a broader scope of tracked maltreatment behaviours, including:

• Complaint intake data from Hockey Canada’s Independent Third Party (ITP);
• Ice hockey complaint intake data from the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC);
• Tracking of Rule 11.4 penalties and allegations from all 13 Members;
• Data from a pilot project that tracked other types of Rule 11 penalties in specific Hockey Canada Member jurisdictions.

“The Tracking Maltreatment in Sanctioned Hockey report is critical in our efforts to identify and take action against egregious behaviours that have no place in hockey and sport in general,” said Natasha Johnston, vice-president of sport safety for Hockey Canada. “We will continue to be transparent in publicly sharing the data we collect with our Members and use the insights to better inform our collective actions moving forward.

“With our Members, we are committed to expanding reporting on maltreatment in sanctioned hockey during the 2023-24 season as well as working to prevent and address maltreatment behaviours in sanctioned hockey programming. As we continue to build greater awareness and facilitate greater opportunities and trust for individuals to come forward, it is anticipated that there will be an increase in maltreatment incidences being reported on and off the ice.”

Hockey Canada will continue to make national reports on maltreatment publicly available and accessible on an annual basis as part of its overall sport safety framework.

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Hockey Canada Foundation grants more than 3,300 financial assists

Record number of Assist Fund applicants to receive registration subsidies

NR.085.23
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November 27, 2023

CALGARY, Alberta – The Hockey Canada Foundation has announced that 3,322 young players across the country will receive subsidies towards hockey registration fees for the 2023-24 season through its Assist Fund, which is the most in the program’s four-year history.

More than $1.5 million will be distributed to approved participants this season, with assists going to kids in each of Hockey Canada’s 13 Members. 

This year’s record number of assists represents a 30% increase compared to last season, and 38% of assists are to participants who identify with the Black, Indigenous and racialized community.

“The Assist Fund is such an important program that helps more children and families register for hockey and create lifelong memories through the sport we all love,” said Donna Iampieri, executive director of the Hockey Canada Foundation. “This initiative would not be possible without the generosity of Canadians and our partners, and with their support, we look forward to providing more assists to those facing financial barriers to hockey in the future.”

Since 2020, the Assist Fund has provided financial support to more than 8,000 kids, including over 3,000 who identify with the Black, Indigenous and racialized community. The Assist Fund was launched ahead of the 2020-21 season in response to the many families experiencing financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has continued to provide subsidies to help more young Canadians enjoy the game they love.

The Hockey Canada Foundation Assist Fund – parent testimonials

“Tucker loves everything hockey, and he is so thankful for organizations like this that let him get on the ice. Thank you for helping my child be active and healthy!” – Jesse in Ontario

“Our community has a growing number of Indigenous players and we wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of the Assist Fund.” – Averil in British Columbia

“Jaxon eats, sleeps and plays hockey and his love for it is something I could never take away from him. We are honoured to be part of the Hockey Canada Foundation and look forward to keeping him doing what he loves.” – Charlene in Alberta

Canadians can give an assist of their own this holiday season, with 100% of donations going towards subsidized registration fees for additional Canadian kids. More information can be found at AssistFund.HockeyCanadaFoundation.ca.

To learn more about the Hockey Canada Foundation, please visit HockeyCanadaFoundation.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookLinkedIn, X and Instagram.

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Independent adjudicative panel issues adjudicative report

Findings in report are under appeal

NR.081.23
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November 14, 2023

CALGARY, Alberta – In November 2022, an independent adjudicative panel was provided with Henein Hutchison Robitaille LLP’s final investigative report regarding allegations against the 2018 National Junior Team in June 2018. The panel was tasked with holding a hearing with a view to determining whether certain members of the 2018 National Junior Team breached Hockey Canada’s code of conduct, and if so, what sanctions should be imposed against those players.

That hearing is complete and the panel has provided its final adjudicative report to all involved parties.

Shortly thereafter, a notice of appeal was filed, as is permitted under Hockey Canada’s Investigation and Adjudication Procedures. As the appeal process, which we anticipate will begin in the near future, will be conducted in-camera, we are not able to share details of the report, including its findings at this time to ensure that we do not interfere with the integrity of the appeal process.

We thank the members of the independent adjudicative panel for their efforts in this proceeding.

Hockey Canada has cooperated fully with the London Police Service throughout its investigation and we are committed to continuing to support the legal process. We confirmed with the London Police Service in advance that an announcement concerning the independent adjudicative panel will not affect its investigation.

Pending the completion of the appeal process, all players from the 2018 National Junior Team remain suspended by Hockey Canada and are currently ineligible to play, coach, officiate or volunteer with Hockey Canada-sanctioned programs.

To learn more about Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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Hockey Canada welcomes William Huff Advertising as National Marketing Partner

Partnership expands William Huff's affiliation with prominent Canadian sports brands

NR.073.23
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October 26, 2023

CALGARY, AB – Hockey Canada has announced that William Huff Advertising Ltd. has become its newest National Marketing Partner through an agreement that is effective immediately. One of Canada’s leading producers in signage, William Huff’s portfolio of clients includes the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, among other notable sports and events properties.

“William Huff has been producing top quality signage for local and national sports organizations throughout our 75 years in business,” said Bruce Simpson, owner of William Huff Advertising Ltd. “It was a natural fit for us to partner with Hockey Canada and we are very proud to support the organization’s grassroots, men’s, women’s and para hockey programs. Hockey is such an important part of Canada’s identity and we hope our partnership will help athletes become the best they can be.

“Our commitment to professional and amateur sports is something we are very proud of, and as a partner with several sports and community organizations, we are pleased to add Hockey Canada to that list. Go Canada Go."

As part of the partnership, William Huff will produce signage for national and international events hosted by Hockey Canada. William Huff will also be recognized in-venue, including throughout the upcoming fall event schedule.

“Hockey Canada is thrilled to welcome William Huff as a National Marketing Partner,” said Dean McIntosh, vice-president of strategic partnerships and community impact for Hockey Canada. “Throughout our time working together, which includes the 2022 and 2023 IIHF World Junior Championships, we have continued to expand our partnership, and formalizing it today to officially welcome William Huff as an official partner of Hockey Canada is an exciting step for both organizations.”

To learn more about Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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Katherine Henderson hired as president and chief executive officer of Hockey Canada

Prominent and accomplished executive joins Hockey Canada after leading Curling Canada to success

NR.045.23
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July 04, 2023

CALGARY, AB – Following an extensive recruitment process led by a search committee comprised of key stakeholders and supported by an external executive search firm, Hockey Canada is pleased to announce the appointment of Katherine Henderson as its next president and chief executive officer.

The Hockey Canada Board of Directors, under the leadership of the Hon. Hugh L. Fraser, was tasked with creating a vision for the next phase of transformation and growth of Canada’s official winter sport. One of its key mandates was to identify and recruit a president and chief executive officer who aligns with the vision of the board.

Henderson has spent the past seven years as the chief executive officer of Curling Canada, where she successfully led initiatives to introduce new Canadians to the sport, spearheaded pay equity for Canada’s men’s and women’s curling teams, and drove a financial turnaround of the organization’s business model. She is also currently the elected co-chair of the Winter Caucus of Sport (Canadian Winter Olympic and Paralympic Sports).

“Katherine has the track record and experience to lead the ongoing transformation of Hockey Canada,” said the Hon. Hugh L. Fraser, chair of the Hockey Canada Board of Directors. “With her at the helm we are confident that we will continue to take the steps necessary to ensure hockey is a safe and inclusive sport and that Hockey Canada benefits from best-in-class governance.”

“The future of hockey is limitless,” said Henderson. “As a winter sport nation, with a long tradition in our ice and snow sports, playing and watching hockey is undeniably a part of who we are as Canadians. I am looking forward to working with our board and staff, our athletes, our Members and local associations, our corporate and hockey partners, and our fans and participants to ensure that all Canadians have a personal hockey experience that is right for them.”

Before joining Curling Canada, Henderson was the senior vice-president of marketing and revenue for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games organizing committee where she helped the Games set attendance, ticket sales and television ratings records. Earlier in her career, Henderson held progressive roles in marketing and branding with Whirlpool Corporation, Colgate Palmolive Canada, Campbell Soup Canada and General Mills Canada.

A leader in the greater sport community, holding a number of positions that advance sport in general, Henderson attained a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition from Western University, an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University and a master’s degree in theological studies from the University of Toronto.

In 2022, she received an International Olympic Committee Diploma for her achievements to attain gender equity in sport. She also delivered to the curling community, Changing the Face of Curling, an International Symposium in partnership with two universities and Curling Canada’s leadership to advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“Our search committee was comprised of stakeholder representatives including athletes, Members, partners and the Hockey Canada Foundation, and we are appreciative of the time that everyone devoted to the recruitment process,” said Jonathan Goldbloom, who chaired the search committee. “We thank them for undertaking such an important task that will shape the future of Hockey Canada and hockey in Canada.”

Henderson will begin her role with Hockey Canada on Sept. 4 and will be participating at the Beyond the Boards Summit later that week. She will be based in Toronto, Ont.

Information about media availability will be shared at a later date.

For more information on Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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Building a community around hockey

BFL Female Coach of the Year Julie Venselaar is growing hockey in Powell River, B.C., by creating opportunity for girls and women to share the ice together

Jonathan Yue
|
June 08, 2023

Hockey has always been a source of community for Julie Venselaar.

Playing in women’s drop-in sessions in the coastal city of Powell River, B.C., the women in the session felt there needed to be more options for girls and women to play hockey together. With no organized leagues, it was a gap that needed to be filled.

When they approached Venselaar asking if she wanted to be involved, it was a no-brainer.

“I truly believe that it is so important for girls to have an activity or sport as they head into their adolescence years,” Venselaar says. “The group created a time for these girls to come out and to be coached by women, have fun and have some girl time, and when my daughter was old enough, they asked if I wanted to join and help out, [and] I said yes.”

With girls playing integrated hockey in boys’ leagues, the sessions evolved from being just additional skates to becoming a full girls’ team, and it strengthened the game in Powell River. After eight years of coaching, Venselaar has continued to be involved in organizing and volunteering her time in on-ice activities, fostering a space for girls to play hockey together. Almost a decade later, she still feels fortunate to be able to be a part of the growth of hockey.

A full-time teacher, Venselaar is passionate about children growing up in a positive environment. That commitment to creating a community through hockey has earned Venselaar the BFL Female Coach of the Year award in the Community category.

“There’s nothing better we can give our girls and our daughters than that sense of having something to anchor them through those tricky times in life,” she says. “Part of why I do what I do is to build that community, to build that safe space around them and to surround them with good role models who are there to love and support them. Hockey is something that I know is a medium for me to do that and it’s great because it allows these amazing girls to learn skills from being a part of a team.”

But the most special part for Venselaar has been sharing her coaching journey with her daughter. As part of her prize for earning the BFL honour, Venselaar attended the gold medal game at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Brampton, Ont., with her daughter by her side

“It was so awesome to be able to share that with my daughter,” Venselaar says. “It was so inspiring to be there, and to see it live, with the extremely talented athletes, it was amazing. The best part is that they’re amazing people, too. The players were waving to the crowd and my daughter loved it.

“We made a sign for Micah Zandee-Hart because she was the only player from B.C., and Micah came over, smiled at us before tossing my daughter a puck and it really made her day.”

At the end of the day, Venselaar wants to make sure that it isn’t just her efforts growing the game. She’s very proud of what her community has been able to do together and hopes it continues to expand.

“Our hockey community of parents, coaches, players, and more, they’re bringing it all together and supporting our girls and creating something that’s for them,” Venselaar concludes. “I am here to guide things along, but I’m just part of an amazing team that brings the community together.”

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Circling back to hockey

Haneet Parhar thought she was done with hockey after university, but through coaching, the BFL Female Coach of the Year found her way back to the game

Jonathan Yue
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June 08, 2023

Haneet Parhar didn’t always have hockey in her plans. But for one reason or another, hockey always found a way back into her life. And for that, Parhar is forever grateful for the opportunities she’s had through the game.

Her passion for giving back to the sport that gave her so much has led to her being honoured as the BFL Female Coach of the Year in the High Performance category.

“There’s been so many times in my life where I’ve told myself ‘This is it, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to a rink or pick up my skates,’ and then boom, I come back to hockey,” Parhar says.

As a student-athlete at the University of British Columbia, there was a lot of uncertainty if she would even make the Thunderbirds roster. She would eventually have a very successful U SPORTS career, winning three Canada West championships, but her time at UBC also kicked off a career in coaching that she never imagined.

From wanting to just stay involved as an 18-year-old undergrad student, working as a coach in community rink programs and UBC hockey camps in the summer, it reminded Parhar of the joy she found in hockey, for herself and the kids in her programs.

“Doing it throughout my school and varsity career at UBC, I coached at the recreational level for five-and-a-half years,” she says. “When you start at that level, I really did it because I loved it. You see the kids smile and it’s really easy to take away that hardcore style of coaching and do it for fun. It was a great fit for me.”

Coaching kids from ages six to 15, not only did it motivate Parhar to get the kids to participate, but it also reminded her how special it was growing up with hockey.

“It reminded me of when I was young when we played sports for fun, too. Being able to provide that opportunity for kids to have a safe space for themselves and allow them to branch out, that’s what matters.”

When her Thunderbirds career came to an end in 2017, Parhar was ready to hang up the skates, with the expectation that she had already given everything she had to the sport. Looking back to her time in appreciation, she’s thankful for how all the coaching staff, led by head coach Graham Thomas and assistant coach Mike Sommer, inspired her. It wasn’t until after she left the UBC program that she realized how far their influence went.

A year after graduating, working full-time while coaching for fun on the side with her hometown North Shore Avalanche, Parhar received a call from Thomas that opened up a new path in her life.

“I didn’t think coaching would be my end-all, be-all,” Parhar explains. “I wasn’t a star player, I wasn’t a captain, but [Thomas] said he wanted a new voice. I came in with my experience as a player who knew the culture and the system, what it meant to be a role player and owning it, and I was there for the girls as someone who went through five years with the team.”

After a single season back at UBC, Parhar decided she wanted continue to explore her career options, deciding to give up the game once again, pack up and move to England to pursue a degree in law. And as the sport would have it, hockey found her again.

“I was sitting in England during the pandemic, waiting for a train in pouring rain, just two months away from graduating in May, when I received another phone call from Graham. It had been two years since I last coached, and he asked me if I’m coming home and if I’d be able to coach in the upcoming year,” Parhar recalls. “Of course, I say yes, and I go to training camp and see the players, and instantly that passion came rushing back.”

Since then, she’s been able to not only provide coaching on the hockey side, but also bring her experience of being a former player that thought they had nothing left to give to the sport, before realizing the importance of sticking with her passion.

This past year, on top of holding the role of assistant coach with the Thunderbirds, Parhar also continued to coach within the community with the Vancouver Female Ice Hockey Association. At the community level, she’s continues giving back and supporting young girls in hockey, much like how she was supported growing up.

“For a lot of female hockey players now, they didn’t have a female role model, so now that I’m in that position, I think of how cool it must be for these girls to grow up having a role model that they can truly relate to,” Parhar says.

At the end of the day, although it wasn’t always her plan to be a coach, Parhar is enjoying every moment of it, and working to share her experiences with hockey and what it has meant to her after all these years.

“It’s always been for the kids,” Parhar concludes. “To have someone they can see that looks like them, as tall as them, I want to be there for the girls and show them that all they need is the right energy, positivity and determination.”

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For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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