In November, disturbing allegations of players hazing, sexual harassment, cyberbullying and hosting ‘fight clubs’ were leveled against private West Kelowna hockey organization Okanagan HC.
Those allegations are currently being investigated by Kelowna RCMP Vulnerable Persons Section as the allegations include persons under the age of 18.
Okanagan HC has said that it “does not condone any form of bullying or harassment and would “fully cooperate with any investigation.”
In a letter sent to a number of governing hockey associations by a father of a former member of the U15 team, and obtained by Black Press Media, allegations included concerning claims of players using other team members’ toothbrushes to rub their buttocks and filling other players’ water bottles with toilet water and urine.
The incidents are alleged to have happened on a team trip Sept. 20 to 25. None of the allegations has been proven.
The letter details another trip, where a player was allegedly pinned down while another player placed his buttocks on their face, as well as relentless bullying of other team members on social media.
Kelowna Capital News was sent several screenshots of team texts, social media posts, and emails detailing the allegations outlined in the letter.
The father said his son was bullied in person and online and is now out of the Okanagan HC program.
“But I am worried about the other children in that program,” the father said in an interview.
“I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to any more kids.”
Capital News decided not to publish the name of the parent to protect the identity of his son.
Launched around April of this year, the Okanagan HC is part of the Junior Prospects Hockey League (JPHL) and is owned by JMRH Hockey Development ULC, which also owns the West Kelowna Warriors of the BC Hockey League. JMRH is owned by Okanagan businessman Rod Hume and U.S. investment firm CEO John Murphy. Okanagan HC has three teams: U18, U15, and U14.
Before sending the letter, the father said he took his concerns to Hume and the U15 coach but said they were ignored and the bullying of his son continued. He then met casually with Hume on Sept. 29, and said that Hume indicated he was going to investigate.
“He responded to my subsequent complaint in writing and closed the school’s social media accounts,” the father said. “My son never met with him and says Rod never talked to him.
“Rod claimed my son missed two meetings, and my response was if it’s serious you need to meet him.”
The father said he tried several times to have his concerns resolved and that no formal meetings ever occurred.
Capital News made several attempts to contact Hume for an interview. In an emailed statement from Okanagan HC, the organization said it is aware of a complaint made by a parent about player behaviour and that it does not condone any form of bullying or harassment.
“We are taking the complaint seriously and, in consultation with the Junior Prospects Hockey League, we are hiring an independent legal firm to conduct an independent investigation.
“Recognizing that these issues relate to underage persons, we must be respectful of their privacy and will not be releasing any personal or private information,” the statement reads in part.
“Any contraventions of our discipline and code of conduct policy will be addressed…up to and including the suspension or dismissal of a player.”
The Capital News also reached out to U15 coach Derek Bachynski through email and a phone message but did not receive a response.
JPHL president Richard Nault said in a separate statement that the league is investigating and will have further comment once that is completed.
‘Lord of the Flies HC’
The mother of the player said she understands many of the incidents happened on a U15 team trip in September, and that there were no parent chaperones present that she was aware of. “There has to be consequences for behaviour and I didn’t see any of that happening here (Okanagan HC),” she said.
There are also allegations of a fight club involving players, called ‘Lord of the Flies HC.’
Capital News was sent video of two of these incidents, both with time stamps in October, although it remains unclear how long the players had been fighting. In one 38-second video, two young players believed to be on the U14 team can be seen in full gear, including their skates, aggressively punching each other while their teammates cheer them on until one is finally declared the winner. The videos don’t show if any adults are in the room.
The mother said she was also made aware of the fight club.
“My son was asked to do it and he said no. I think he was not a party to any of this behaviour and so eventually they just started to turn on him. The bullying, the hazing, the treatment of my son just got progressively worse.”
Former coach of the U14 team, Greg Martinuik, told the Capital News he didn’t know of any fighting like this happening during his two-week tenure as coach. He was dismissed on Sept. 23 without being told a specific cause.
Since the October videos surfaced, Martinuik said he has received dozens of phone calls from parents about the fight club and the other allegations.
“I’ve been told there were some other incidents going on,” he said. “I’m actually disgusted to hear that stuff.”
While the JPHL is investigating the allegations, associations such as the BCAHA and Hockey Canada – both of which were made aware of the father’s concerns – say they don’t have jurisdiction to intervene in matters involving a non-sanctioned league.
“… they would have their own rules and procedures in place, which would not be required to comply with Hockey Canada’s rules and procedures,” Hockey Canada said in an emailed statement.
”Should a complainant come forward in relation to a matter outside of Hockey Canada’s jurisdiction, we would work to direct them to relevant resources including law enforcement, OSIC, and/or their local league.”
The Capital News also contacted the BCHL and received an email statement from Jesse Adamson, media and communications manager:“We have been made aware of disturbing allegations involving Okanagan HC, which is a team within the JPHL.
“The JPHL is a separate and independent league that the BCHL has no involvement in. We are aware that the manager of the JPHL team in question is a minority owner of one of the BCHL’s teams, but our rules and jurisdiction only apply to teams playing in the BCHL.”