This year, Hockey New Brunswick (HNB) investigated 29 allegations of discrimination that occurred last year, resulting in 15 players being suspended for their discriminatory words and behaviour.
An upheaval of the stereotypically toxic masculine hockey culture in not only the province, but the entire country, is long overdue. Hockey Canada is under scrutiny ever since sexual assault allegations surfaced against various team Canada players during the 2019 World Junior Championship tournament, causing major sponsors like Tim Horton’s and Scotiabank to pull their funding of the program and their tournaments.
In an effort to educate players, coaches, and parents on discrimination faced by marginalized peoples such as the LGBTQ+ and Black communities in sports, HNB hired Normand Hector, who identifies as black and gay, to run workshops around the province.
Hector strives to facilitate acceptance and inclusivity within the hockey community and the province as a whole. The message he hopes to portray in his workshops is that there is a place for everyone in hockey, but there is no place for discrimination.
Sarah Hilworth, the head coach for the UNB Reds women’s hockey team, sits on the board of the Central Female Hockey Association and shares Hector’s passion for making the game more inclusive, affordable, and accessible.
Hilworth and the Association have “made some initiatives such as partnering with UNB to create an Indigenous Girls Learn To Play program where the girls have the option to join minor hockey for free. So, if they like it, they get their gear and everything paid for by our program.”
Hilworth also strives to help financially vulnerable groups- which often include marginalized communities- access the sport. She also works with Bauer First Shift “which allows an entry point for athletes to enter the game at a considerable cost reduction that includes their minor hockey, and includes all the gear plus a six-week program that I run for them.”
Hilworth draws attention to the lack of action taken by hockey authorities and is disappointed by the recent HNB discrimination allegations.
“You’d hope that the governing body is trying to do whatever they can to make sure that the game is inclusive, and all people feel that they have a part in the game. I’m not blind either. I know that things happen, not just in New Brunswick, but all over Canada.”
She also draws attention to gender bias, racial prejudice, homophobia, and ableism in the hockey world.
“People make decisions based on people’s capacity or on people of colour or sexual orientation or disability,” Hilworth continues, and reiterates the importance of Norman Hectors workshops and HNB’s efforts to promote acceptance and inclusivity in the hockey community facing discrimination allegations.
“I think that there needs to be strides towards fair play and be able to move past things that a lot of people cannot change, and we shouldn’t pass judgment based on those things.”