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Western investigating misconduct allegations within women’s hockey program, sources say

Western University Yourk Western University - The Canadian Press

Western University has hired an outside lawyer to investigate multiple allegations of misconduct within its women’s hockey program, four sources familiar with the matter told TSN.

Multiple players have made allegations of improper conduct against head coach Candice Moxley and Western’s strength and conditioning coach Jeff Watson, who works with the London, Ont., school’s 38 varsity teams.

Allegations made by players against Moxley include claims that she pressured players to play through injuries and did not act when players told her about Watson’s alleged misconduct.

Moxley has coached at Western since 2018 and has also coached in the NCAA at Buffalo State College for four seasons and in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Moxley also worked as a video coach with Hockey Canada’s women’s development and senior teams from 2013-15.

Western spokesperson Marcia Steyaert refused to confirm the school’s investigation.

“At Western, the safety and well-being of our students is a core priority,” Steyaert wrote in an email to TSN. “The university has rigorous processes for reviewing and addressing formal complaints. Any such reviews are confidential, to ensure integrity of the process and to protect the privacy of those involved.”

Moxley confirmed to TSN in an email that the school is investigating the women’s hockey program and that she is on a caregiving leave.

“The review of the team environment is ongoing, however, at no time have I been suspended by Western,” Moxley wrote.

The sources told TSN that Western has retained London lawyer Elizabeth Hewitt to investigate the allegations.

Hewitt, a former board chair of Brescia University College and King’s University College – both affiliated with Western – specializes in investigating claims of workplace harassment, sexual harassment, abuse, privacy breaches, discrimination, and workplace violence, according to her website.

One source interviewed by Hewitt in August said the investigator has advised players that it will be up to Western staff to decide whether or not to make her findings public.

TSN has reviewed email correspondence between players and Hewitt that confirms Western’s probe of the “environment” on its women’s hockey team. Hewitt did not respond to a request for comment.

Three sources told TSN that players began making formal complaints about Moxley in March 2022 to then-Western director of sports and recreation Stephanie White, who left Western in April 2022 to take a position at the University of Windsor.

White wrote in an email to TSN on Aug. 27 that she has not been asked to participate in an investigation or offer any details on misconduct allegations against Watson or Moxley.

“I do not feel comfortable providing any comment,” White wrote. “I believe is it important for all parties to have a fair and diligent process and for Western to complete whatever their process might be.”

Allegations reported to Western staff include claims that Moxley repeatedly told players she “didn’t care” about their mental health, told her players they were all replaceable, and criticized players’ social media posts, telling players they wore clothing that was too revealing, the sources said.

Moxley is also alleged to have pressured at least one player to play while they had a knee injury, threatening to bench the player for the remainder of the season if they did not suit up for a game.

Complaints to the school also include allegations that Moxley did not act following multiple complaints from players that they were being sexually harassed by Watson.

Watson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

One source told TSN that Moxley was advised repeatedly over the past several seasons that Watson had made inappropriate statements about players’ bodies and had inappropriately touched some players.

The source said when one player told Moxley that Watson had touched them inappropriately when they were working out in the gym, the coach answered that the player should wear longer shorts to avoid the problem.

After sources said complaints to White in 2022 went unanswered, a senior Western player emailed White’s successor, Christine Stapleton, on March 13, 2023, writing, “The leadership team would like to have a private confidential meeting with you to discuss our concerns with the Western women’s hockey program and head coach.”

When Stapleton didn’t respond, several senior players emailed Western president Alan Shepard on June 13 to request a meeting. Shepard’s assistant forwarded the players’ email to vice-provost John Doerksen, who met with the players on June 22.

The day after the players’ meeting with Doerksen, Stapleton responded to the players’ March email and agreed to set up a meeting.

During that June 28 meeting with players, administration staff and human resources representatives, Stapleton said school staff had identified several areas of concern about Moxley including “player health and safety” but had decided to allow her to remain on staff for the upcoming season, two sources told TSN.

When a player asked during the June 28 meeting why Moxley would be given a chance to continue coaching after allegedly ignoring repeated complaints of sexual misconduct, Stapleton did not respond, the sources said.