Canada

Hockey Canada appoints Andrea Skinner as interim chair, the first woman to lead organization

EDMONTON—Andrea Skinner, a Toronto lawyer with a background in inclusion and mental health, has become the first woman to lead Hockey Canada, becoming interim chair of the board of the sport’s governing body.

She replaces Michael Brind’Amour, who stepped down Aug. 6, as Hockey Canada faces one of the greatest challenges since its founding in 1914 in dealing with a national backlash regarding its handling of a lawsuit over an alleged gang-rape incident in London, Ont., in 2018.

Skinner’s term will expire in November when Brind’Amour’s was supposed to end. Skinner was named to the board in November 2020. Her election two years ago was a result of the organization’s updated By-Laws requiring a minimum of two men and two women on the board.

The change comes as Hockey Canada prepares to host the world junior hockey championships in Edmonton, the crown jewel of its hockey events calendar, but one suffering from a distinct lack of buzz and lack of sponsorship dollars. Canadians seem apparently unwilling to cheer for the organizations after revelations of the details of its cover-up of the 2018 incident involving the gold-medal winning team.

Skinner practices law as a partner at Aird & Berlis LLP, where she also serves as Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and leads the firm’s Mental Health Initiative.

In a press release announcing Skinner, the Calgary-based Hockey Canada acknowledged that “recent events” have called into question the “trust” Canadians have in the organization.

“The board has brought forward new ideas and perspectives, with a focus on inclusion and making the game more accessible to all Canadians. We recognize there is more work to do and we are committed to continuing to drive change, in the best interests of hockey and in keeping with Canadians’ expectations,” the organization’s release said.

Brind’Amour stepping down was the first domino in a backlash that has minor hockey associations considering withholding membership fees while parliamentarians try to get to the bottom of why sex assault claims — and there are allegedly more than the 2018 one — were buried through a hush-fund rather than reported further up the chain of command to the minister of sports.

Hockey Canada has also hired former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell to review the organization’s governance.

“As a Board we are listening to Canadians,” Skinner said in the news release. “We are working to make meaningful positive changes to the culture of the sport of hockey. I am proud of my lifelong commitment to hockey and am honoured to serve Hockey Canada as Chair of the Board; a Board that includes men and women with a diversity of age and life experiences, and one that represents different ethnic and cultural communities, including Indigenous Canadians, and the LGBT2Q+ community.

“I sincerely believe the organization is taking positive steps to effect meaningful change from the grassroots to high-performance national team level.”

In a press release announcing Andrea Skinner’s appointment, the Calgary-based Hockey Canada acknowledged that “recent events” have called into question the “trust” Canadians have in the organization.

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