These are difficult times for those who are currently or have previously been involved with Hockey Canada. That group includes Bob Nicholson, the current Chief Executive Officer and Vice Chair of the Oilers Entertainment Group. As these stories continue to unfold in real time, the silence coming from the Oilers organization is nearly as stunning as is the local media’s decision to not ask what is going on.
Now let’s not be naïve here. No one is expecting for Nicholson to come out and open the so called kimono on the inner workings of Hockey Canada. That’s not happening and to be fair, there’s a good chance he can’t say much of anything. After all, with investigations ongoing, a gag order of sorts may have very well been put in place for those with current or previous connection to the program.
With that said, for not even the generic organizational “handbook” release to be part of the equation is shocking. And yet, no one among Edmonton’s connected mainstream media seems remotely interested in finding out why. Considering we are talking about a group who has (more or less) all commented on these stories and praised TSN’s Rick Westhead for his work, not a beep from the locals on Nicholson.
Like it or not but the fact he served as president and chief executive officer of Hockey Canada from June 1, 1998 through June 1, 2014, makes him someone of great importance in these scandals. As reported in the Globe and Mail roughly a week ago, Hockey Canada formed a National Equity Fund during Nicholson’s tenure to pay for “uninsured liabilities”…such as potential claims for historical sexual abuse.
When we add that to the newly re-opened investigations surrounding the 2003 and 2018 Canadian World Junior teams (the former landing during Nicholson’s time a top Hockey Canada) how hasn’t someone broached the subject with the Oilers organization? Again, at this point, any response isn’t likely to include much of anything but the question still has to be asked and answered.
From an organizational standpoint, one would think the Oilers would get ahead of this and release the aforementioned “cookie-cutter” statement on Nicholson’s behalf and at least have it out there. Better yet, how about the NHL take an actual proactive and not a reactive approach to a matter of importance and instruct the organization to address this?
Then again, with how the league continually stumbled over itself during the Kyle Beach saga, expecting anything of the sort may be a tad unrealistic. In fact, the radio-silence approach sounds more like something the NHL would do and not surprisingly we have seen exactly that when it comes to Nicholson and the Oilers. Disappointing to be sure but hardly something that should be viewed as unexpected.
Let’s not forget, The Athletic’s Katie Strang asked Gary Bettman a few weeks back whether “he thinks hockey has a culture problem” and he said he does not, at least at the NHL level. He stated that he felt the incidents that have surfaced are reflective of larger societal issues. That is a direct quote from Katie’s twitter account and it frankly speaks volumes.
No one is expecting Nicholson to come out and hold a press conference discussing Hockey Canada. However, some kind of acknowledgement from the man who was running the organization during one of the two instances in question would be nice. Clearly, there is a cultural issue within the program and he was at the head of it for 16 years.
If Nicholson and the Oilers won’t get out in front of this on their own, those media members who have direct access have got to ask the question. It needed to happen 7 to 10 days ago but there’s still time. Being alright with putting players in an uncomfortable spot and not those running the organization can’t be the way this works.
It has to be a two-way street, or how can we take any of them seriously?