The Canadian Hockey League announced Friday it has launched an independent review panel in response to a class-action lawsuit by former players that alleges systemic physical, mental and sexual abuse of underage players.
The CHL oversees the Western Hockey League, of which the Everett Silvertips are members, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The lawsuit alleges the CHL and its member leagues have been complicit for decades in bullying and abuse of underage players by coaches, team staff and senior players.
Players as young as 15 years old and as old as 20 are eligible to play in the CHL, though younger players have strict limitations to the amount of games they can play.
In its statement, the CHL said it “is committed to ensuring (players) an environment that is Players First and free of hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying, and that provides zero tolerance for any of these (behaviors).”
The statement continued: “We are deeply troubled by the allegations in the recently announced class action, many of which are historic in nature and we believe are not indicative of the leading experience our players receive in the CHL today. Regardless of timing, we taking the claims very seriously as the protection of our players has been and always will be our primary concern.”
The CHL says it hopes to have the review process complete in time for the start of the 2020-21 season, which in the WHL’s case is slated to be the beginning of October.
The CHL says that roughly 1,400 players are members of the league at any given time.