Months of bullying and verbal abuse turned hockey into a toxic environment, according to a 13-year-old Abbotsford resident.
Jamison Ladd penned a resignation letter to the coaches of his Abbotsford Minor Hockey Association (AMHA) Bantam C3 team stating his intentions to quit the team after he says the harassment failed to improve.
His father, Garrett Ladd, said the bullying initially began with his teammates poking fun at Jamison’s athleticism, but then escalated to racial slurs.
“The kids were making references to him looking like a Jewish character from a book and making anti-Semitic remarks,” Garrett said. “They were referencing the Holocaust and using other racial slurs towards him and other kids. I don’t think these people understand the gravity of what they were saying.”
After learning of the harassment, Garrett said he informed the coaches of what had occurred, but after saying they would deal with it, the bullying continued.
Garrett said he then told the coaches he would press harder for more discipline, and one of the alleged bullies was suspended in late-December.
“But the kid went right back into the locker room right after he was suspended and told everyone on the team immediately what had just happened and who was the reason for it,” Garrett said. “It didn’t improve anything.”
Garrett said the coaches of Jamison’s team were not properly supervising the team and weren’t following the Hockey Canada “two-deep policy,” which calls for at least two adult supervisors in the dressing room at all times.
“Things would continue to happen when they weren’t in the room and Jamison would have to leave the room to find them and tell them,” he said. “It made it hard for him to do anything.”
Garrett said it eventually became too much for Jamison and he wrote the letter to his coaches to announce he was departing the team.
The AMHA’s procedure for reporting violations recommends that issues be addressed at the lowest level possible, beginning by player to player and moving up.
Garrett believes that the AMHA failed to follow that policy when dealing with the boys bullying his son.
“These comments were unacceptable at any level and we reported it early,” he said. “The coaches were aware and, when one of the kids was suspended, the executives were to be notified, at least that’s what we were told.”
Since sharing the letter on social media, Garrett has had a meeting with AMHA executives.
During that meeting, he said that the executives stated that they had no idea of the situation.
“We thought everyone knew and now everyone is saying they didn’t know what was going on and are implying we didn’t follow proper reporting procedures. There has been no apology or admission of responsibility at all. No one asked how Jamison or my family is doing. They seem more concerned with alleviating themselves of culpability.”
Garrett said he has heard nothing from AMHA president Janine Rizzo and that Bantam division director Jason Wienberger said he was blindsided by the news.
However, according to the bullying policy, they both should have been informed.
He added he and his family have received positive feedback from other local families who said they have also experienced bullying through the AMHA, but were encouraged to remain silent.
The Ladd family have also received notes of support from other players and hockey teams from all across the province, including the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League.
The AMHA has not yet responded to an interview request from The News.
In an email to AMHA members, the association stated that an investigation into the allegations is ongoing.