Warning: This story contains extremely graphic content and language that may be upsetting to some readers.
A former Western Hockey League player who last summer told his story of alleged sexual and physical abuse says he has been blacklisted by the hockey community and threatened with a defamation lawsuit, but does not regret his decision to go public.
Brad Hammett, who says he was attacked by several former WHL teammates in the early 1980s, alleged in newly-filed court documents that he faced immediate consequences after speaking with the media in June 2020.
In an interview with TSN and CTV that was published June 26, 2020, Hammett alleged that he was abused during the 1981-82 season when he played with the WHL’s Billings (Mont.) Bighorns. He said the abuse continued the following season after the franchise moved to Nanaimo, B.C., and became the Islanders.
“Since I told my story last year, I have been blackballed by the hockey community,” Hammett wrote in a Nov. 26 affidavit filed in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto. “I used to be a scout for various teams, including in the NHL. Not long after the CTV story aired, I received communications from one NHL team saying they no longer needed my services. Others simply stopped calling.
“One of my close friends advised me that another of our old junior hockey buddies simply said ‘when did Brad turn gay’ when the subject of my interview came up in conversation. I feel as if I am alone on an island now, with most of my peers turning on me for telling the world what everybody knew was happening.”
Hammett’s affidavit was sworn in connection with a proposed hazing and abuse class action lawsuit filed against the Canadian Hockey League and its three affiliated major junior leagues.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege the CHL, its teams and their executives have fostered a toxic environment that condones sexualized, homophobic, and violent conduct, including physical and sexual assault.
The CHL denies the allegations and has the support of a number of former players, parents of one-time players and league and team officials who say major junior hockey has been a place where most players have enjoyed largely positive experiences.
A judge has not yet decided if the case will proceed as a class action.
Hammett wrote in his affidavit that he was aware there would be repercussions if he reported his abuse.
“Everybody knows you will be blackballed if you say anything," he wrote. "If you do not toe the line in junior hockey, you are made to be an outsider. Those are the unwritten rules. I believe that by telling my story, others will realize they are not alone… I believe this case will allow for decades of secrets to be revealed. I know that by telling my story, I have come a long way in healing. I hope others will see it the same way."
Hammett said during an interview with TSN on Wednesday that he worked as a scout for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks for two seasons, with the team reimbursing him for expenses. Hammett said he ended that relationship in 2017 because he needed to have surgery.
He said he took up a volunteer scouting assignment in Alberta in 2019 with the St. Louis Blues. Hammett said Bill Armstrong, then the Blues assistant general manager, told him that the NHL team would consider him for a full-time position if Hammett proved himself.
“I filed seven or eight scouting reports for the Blues and it was going great,” Hammett said. “Then in October 2020, after my story came out, Armstrong told me not to send him any more reports.”
Armstrong is now the Arizona Coyotes general manager and said via a Coyotes spokesman that Hammett had reached out to him when he worked with St. Louis to ask about a scouting opportunity with the team.
“As I’ve done with several scouting candidates in the past, I asked him to scout a few junior games for me and send some reports to assess his ability,” Armstrong said. “I was informed that at one Western Hockey League game, he signed in as a representative of the Blues. This was the reason why I ended our relationship. I was not aware of any allegations with the CHL at that time.”
Lawyers for plaintiffs in the proposed class action lawsuit have also asked the court to order the CHL to turn over an independent report on abuse in major junior hockey. The report, written by abuse survivor and ex-NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, former New Brunswick premier Camille Theriault, and former Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team head coach Daniele Sauvageau, was commissioned by the CHL last summer but has not been released to the public.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs have also asked the court for permission to subpoena Kennedy, Theriault, and Sauvageau.
CHL President Dan MacKenzie wrote that the CHL plans to make the report public "in the coming month."
"As the matter is before the courts we are not going to get into a debate about the inaccuracies in the plaintiffs' materials, except to tell you that we stand behind the evidence of our affiants," MacKenzie wrote in an email to TSN.
Hammett emailed the WHL on June 20, 2020, detailing his abuse. His email has also been filed in court.
“What would propel a rookie on a WHL team playing on the #1 line who lived, breathed and dreamed of playing in the NHL to get off the bus after 8 WHL games and return to his hometown team … when every NHL Scout in the world was watching every game?” Hammett wrote in his email to the WHL. “I will tell you. Sexual and physical abuse I personally suffered in 1981-82 during my time with the WHL Billings Bighorns and 1982-83 with the WHL Nanaimo Islanders would be the answer.
“The abuse transformed me from a driven, happy, engaged young man and a solid NHL hockey prospect into a black mass of anger, [untrusting] of people, self-isolation and alcohol abuse… In 1981 while on a road trip I was attacked in the team hotel room by my two roommates/linemates, one is a current GM in the WHL the other a [well known] hockey school owner operator and brother of a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame…”
He detailed the alleged assault in his June 2020 email to the WHL.
“The abuse occurred while I was unfolding the rookie cot, I was attacked and pinned down face first by the two assailants, my hands at my side with one assailant kneeling on each of my shoulder with his crotch against the back of my head and the second assailant sitting on my upper back.
“I was pinned helpless and unable to move, my face was pushed into the mattress the only way to breathe was to move my head from side to side to get a gasp of air. The first assailant sitting on my shoulders removed his penis from his pants and proceeded to slap his penis off the side of my face when I attempted to get air while both assailants laughed saying ‘not so tough now hey rookie…’ ”
In 1982, the WHL franchise in Billings moved to Nanaimo.
Hammett wrote that during training camp he witnessed the same two assailants assaulting several rookie players after making them strip naked.
“…(A) line had been placed on the floor with tape and a hockey lace was attached to each rookie’s penis and they were being forced to pull the other [over] the tape line. I immediately intervened with physical force against the assailants and stated firmly, ‘this shit stops now and I’m not pinned down this time.’ ”
Later that season, Hammett said he was assaulted while coming out of the dressing room by the same two players who were joined by two more attackers.
“The assailants immediately put a sock over my head from behind, taped it around my neck and punched me repeatedly in the ribs and thighs until I fell to the ground,” Hammett wrote.
“Once beaten to the ground my arms were held out to the side by two assailants standing on them and I was taped to a hockey stick behind my head crucifixion style. I was then dragged across the room by the hockey stick into the shower where the water was turned on scalding hot, a hockey lace was put on my penis and a coat rack was dragged into the shower, the lace was thrown over the rack and the other end was attached to my ankle…”
Hammett wrote he was left in the shower for more than an hour until the tape was soft enough to break free, “…all the while as my leg lowered it pulled my penis to the point of bleeding and tearing the skin.”
TSN is not naming the alleged abusers because they have not been named in court documents.
Hammett wrote in his email to the WHL that he abused alcohol for years because of the alleged abuse.
In his Nov. 26, 2021 affidavit, he wrote that after emailing the WHL, he spoke with WHL commissioner Ron Robison and WHL vice president Richard Doerksen on June 24, 2020.
“Mr. Robison and Mr. Doerksen told me that they were conducting an internal investigation, but that the investigation would focus on potential threats to current players only,” Hammett wrote. “They told me that they would not investigate past abuses, such as mine, unless it impacted current player safety.”
Hammett wrote that Robison and Doerksen told him that he could have an unredacted copy of a report on the findings of the league investigation into his allegations.
“As the days passed, I became more and more offended by the fact that the WHL would not address the abuse I suffered in the early 1980s,” Hammett wrote. “I was astounded at how little regard they had for what impacted thousands of players’ lives.”
Hammett wrote that on July 2, 2020, six days after his allegations were published and broadcast by TSN and CTV, Robison emailed and told Hammett that the league would no longer involve him in its internal investigation.
Robison confirmed that he emailed Hammett on July 2, 2020.
"I reached out to Mr. Hammett, via email, to advise him that the WHL was prepared to investigate his allegations," Robison wrote in an email to TSN. "He was asked whether he would participate in the investigation and never responded to the WHL."
But by the time Hammett received Robison's email, Hammett no longer trusted the league, he wrote in his affidavit.
“I felt that the WHL would only consider my allegations as long as they were able to keep them secret,” Hammett wrote. “I felt that they were trying to control me and my story of abuse…”
Hammett wrote that he received a letter on July 7, 2020, from an Alberta criminal defence attorney threatening him with litigation and accusing him of making defamatory accusations against his client, a former WHL player who was one of Hammett's teammates.
“After receiving this letter, I knew that supporting this lawsuit was the right thing to do, and that I cannot be silenced by threats,” Hammett wrote in his Nov. 26 affidavit.
Former NHL player Dan Carcillo is one of the representative plaintiffs in the proposed class action case and newly filed documents also detail his response to claims made by Ontario Hockey League Commissioner David Branch’s assertion that he was unaware of Carcillo’s abuse allegations until 2020.
Carcillo played for the OHL’s Sarnia Sting starting in the summer of 2002 when he was 17. He and approximately 12 other Sting rookies suffered “almost constant abuse for the entire 2002-03 season,” he has alleged.
Carcillo has alleged that older Sting players abused younger teammates.
“During showers, rookies were required to sit in the middle of the shower room naked while the older players urinated, spat saliva and tobacco chew on them,” Carcillo’s claim says. “At least once, the head coach walked into the shower room while this was occurring, laughed and walked out.”
Carcillo has alleged rookies were repetitively hit on their bare buttocks with a sawed-off goalie stick, developing large welts and open sores. The injuries were so bad that players couldn’t sit down, even while attending local high school classes, he said.
Branch, who was the CHL president from 1996 to 2019, wrote in a Nov. 1, 2021, affidavit that he doesn’t remember speaking with Carcillo about abuse allegations. Branch wrote that he met with Carcillo in 2005 to discuss his on-ice behaviour after he was suspended several times in 2004 while playing with Sarnia.
“Hazing never came up at this meeting or any other meetings,” Branch wrote, adding that he only became aware of Carcillo’s hazing allegations when Carcillo in June, 2020 began posting about them on Twitter.
In a Nov. 26 affidavit, Carcillo called Branch’s evidence “false.”
Carcillo wrote that he went public with detailed allegations of abuse in late 2018 and that his story was national news across both the United States and Canada.
“My teammates corroborated my story and shared their own stories of abuse, which was also reported on by the press,” Carcillo wrote. “Branch even publicly apologized in 2018. “In my view, his sworn statement that he was not aware of my abuse until I commenced this lawsuit in 2020 is preposterous and reflects the ongoing culture of silence in junior hockey.”