Hockey Canada appoints lawyer as new chair of board of directors amid controversy


Hockey Canada appointed Toronto-based lawyer Andrea Skinner to serve as interim chair of its board of directors while facing intense public pressure for a major shakeup in leadership. 

The move comes just days after Canada’s 13 regional hockey federations threatened to stop paying fees to Hockey Canada because they are “appalled” over its handling of sexual assault allegations. 

The hockey organization said on Tuesday that it held a meeting with the federations and selected Skinner to take over for Michael Brind’Amour who resigned over the weekend. 

“As a Board we are listening to Canadians,” wrote Skinner in Hockey Canada’s media release. “We are working to make meaningful positive changes to the culture of the sport of hockey.”

Hockey Canada said Skinner graduated from Cornell University where she was captain of the varsity hockey team her senior year. She later coached the varsity team at the University of Ottawa and is now a partner at Aird & Berlis LLP, where she’s the chair of its diversity and inclusion committee. Skinner has served on Hockey Canada’s board of directors since November 2020. 

The appointment is the latest public announcement by Hockey Canada vowing to make changes to address its credibility issues and loss of public trust.

In April, a woman filed a $3.5 million lawsuit that said in 2018 eight unnamed Canadian Hockey League players, including members of Canada’s world junior team, sexually assaulted her. 

‘Cracks in the fortress’

Hockey associations and parents were outraged to learn that a special fund made up in part of their registration fees was used to pay for the settlement.

WATCH | World junior tournament to go ahead amid Hockey Canada controversy: 

World junior hockey tournament to go ahead amidst Hockey Canada controversy

Ticket sales for the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton are below expectations as the tournament kicks of this week in the shadow of an ongoing sexual assault scandal at Hockey Canada.

Canadian Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge has called for a major overhaul of the organization’s board of directors.

Brind’Armour stepped down on Saturday and said his final term was set to end in November 2022, but that “immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport.”

St-Onge responded saying “we’re starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that’s how the light gets in.”

MPs from multiple parties probing Hockey Canada’s handling of the alleged group sexual assault have repeatedly called on senior leadership of the organization to step down. The MPs argue that the executives at the top failed to address the problems for years and are not the right leaders to fix the organization’s culture. 

President resists calls to resign

The current board of directors is the first elected under new bylaws requiring gender diversity, according to Hockey Canada on Tuesday.

Lawyer Andrew Winton sits alongside witnesses Scott Smith, Hockey Canada president and chief operating officer and Hockey Canada CFO Brian Cairo, as they appear at a parliamentary committee last month probing the organization’s handling of sexual assault allegations. Smith has resisted stepping down and vowed to lead culture change. (The Canadian Press)

“The Board’s composition was enhanced by the efforts of an independent nominating committee that recruited nominees from the general public, including Ms. Skinner,” said a media release by Hockey Canada’s board of directors. 

Last week, the organization commissioned former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell to lead a third-party review into the organization’s governance structure. 

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