Bauer Hockey has put its partnership with Hockey Canada on ice as the national sport organization announced a mass resignation of its leadership on Tuesday.
Hockey Canada’s CEO and board of directors resigned after the backlash over its handling of alleged sexual assaults grew and prompted the cancellation of a dozen sponsorship arrangements.
Hours before the departures, Bauer said it was pausing its role as the official equipment provider to Hockey Canada’s men’s teams and its sponsorship of men’s tournaments.
It’s unclear whether leadership change alone will be enough to woo back corporate sponsors.
“It’s really the policy and strategy (change) and a revised charter and focus that we believe needs to evolve before we would feel comfortable jumping back in,” Bauer CEO Ed Kinnaly said in an interview.
“If Hockey Canada were a business, they would be failing,” he said. “The number of kids getting involved in hockey in Canada is spiralling downward … but nobody’s talking about that. Instead, people are pointing to national team victories.”
Bauer vice-president of global marketing Mary-Kay Messier said Hockey Canada’s focus needs to shift from “elite performance to growing the game.”
“This is about trying to do the right thing for families that want to access the game,” said Messier, sister of former professional ice hockey player Mark Messier.
“We need a new structure that will foster inclusivity, increase equity and encourage more Canadians to play.”
Bauer is currently in the middle of a multi-million dollar, eight-year partnership with Hockey Canada.
The company provides players on national teams with helmets, visors and gloves, with the option of using Bauer sticks and skates.
Hockey Canada will be able to purchase gear for men’s programs, with profits being invested in hockey programs for girls, women and other underrepresented communities, Bauer said.
The hockey equipment maker will continue to supply equipment to the women’s programs.
The company’s aim is to drive policy change and not to impact athletes or “paint everyone with the same brush,” Messier said.
“There are so many people doing good work in Hockey Canada,” she said. “There’s a lot of people working in the grassroots.”
Bauer’s move follows similar announcements by sponsors including Nike, Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons.
It also comes after Andrea Skinner resigned as the interim chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 11, 2022.