Canadian Tire permanently ends partnership with Hockey Canada
Canadian Tire, one of Hockey Canada’s “international” level corporate partners, is permanently ending its business relationship with the national governing body, further ratcheting up pressure on the organization’s other sponsors and licensees to respond to a growing scandal.
Several of Hockey Canada’s largest sponsors on Wednesday said they have either ended their partnership with the organization or will pause their marketing of the men’s hockey program for the 2022-23 season, including for the World Juniors tournament.
Besides Canadian Tire, other companies that have permanently ended their sponsorships of Hockey Canada include Janes Family Foods Ltd. and Empire Co. Ltd., the parent company of Sobeys.
“When our contract with Hockey Canada expired at the end of June, we chose not to renew our sponsorship because we were disgusted by all of the allegations and, as importantly, Hockey Canada’s unwillingness to make meaningful change to earn back the trust of Canadians and ensure everyone feels welcome and safe when playing the sport,” Sobeys spokesman Paul Wyke wrote in a statement.
Sobeys will continue to support the national women’s team and is exploring options to do that without the involvement of Hockey Canada, Wyke wrote.
According to several sources, it remains possible that some companies that have paused their relationships will still send Hockey Canada a portion of their annual rights fee. PepsiCo, which is among the companies that have paused its relationship, will not send any payments this season, spokeswoman Andrea Helmer wrote in a statement to TSN.
It’s unclear what the impact of losing significant corporate sponsorship revenue will have on Hockey Canada and how it will impact the organization’s ability to stage and participate in international tournaments. Forty-three per cent of Hockey Canada’s revenue in 2021 came from business development and partnerships, according to its annual report. Just 6 per cent of revenue came via government funding.
Canadian Tire informed Hockey Canada on Wednesday night that it would be cutting ties.
“After careful consideration, Canadian Tire Corporation has made the decision to end its partnership with Hockey Canada,” Jane Shaw, Canadian Tire’s senior vice-president of communications, wrote in a statement to TSN.
“In our view, Hockey Canada continues to resist meaningful change and we can no longer confidently move forward together. CTC is proud of our commitment to sport and will continue to invest in our beloved national game by re-directing support to hockey-related organizations that better align with our values.
The Respect Group, which is focused on preventing bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination, is one of many organizations where funds will be diverted. We are committed to supporting hockey and sport that is inclusive and safe for all Canadians.”
Shaw wrote that Canadian Tire will continue to find ways to support women’s and para hockey, minor hockey, and the professional game.
“That support does not change with our departure from Hockey Canada,” she wrote. “In fact, by stepping away, we help put pressure on the organization to address the systemic change, which is what these teams are also asking for. We will continue to invest in these programs through our partnerships with the Olympics,
Paralympics, minor hockey, the professional women’s leagues and directly to athletes. Women and para have always mattered to us, and we believe the best way to support them is to stand up for the changes that are needed to further their game.”
Hockey Canada’s senior leadership has been trying to staunch the exit of corporate partners over the past few days.
A group of Hockey Canada’s corporate partners in recent weeks have been discussing the possibility of permanently ending their business relationship with the national sport organization en masse, four people familiar with the matter told TSN.
Hockey Canada has several tiers of sponsors, including four premier partners – Esso, Nike, Tim Hortons and Telus – who pay as much as $2 million per year for the association.
After similar moves from Tim Hortons and Telus on Wednesday, Esso parent company Imperial Oil confirmed that it would withdraw support for the men’s programs for the 22-23 season and would not support the World Juniors tournament, “until we see meaningful accountability, transparency and change.”
Nike has declined to respond to requests for comment.
TSN and RDS also released a statement on Thursday.
"TSN and RDS have been, and will continue to be, the leaders in reporting on abuse in the world of sport. As broadcast partners, TSN and RDS urge Hockey Canada to enact meaningful change to deliver a hockey environment built on a culture of respect. During the IIHF World Junior Championship in August, we used our platforms to shed light on the issue of sexual violence in sports, and conducted difficult conversations regarding the changes required to create an environment that is truly equitable, inclusive, and safe for all. We will continue to spotlight this issue for Canadians, and will confirm our broadcast plans for the 2022-23 IIHF World Junior Championship in the coming months."