A 15-year-old hockey player in Manitoba was forced to parade around the dressing room with water bottles tied to his genitals, the teen's parents alleged Wednesday in an effort to end hazing rituals in minor hockey.
The parents described their son's hazing experience in a CBC News interview on Wednesday, a day after the Manitoba Junior Hockey League suspended the Neepawa Natives' coaches and 16 players for hazing incidents involving five team members.
The team was also slapped with a $5,000 fine, the largest fine the league has ever issued, according to its commissioner.
In all, 16 players — including the team captain and three assistant captains — have been suspended for between one and five games for the hazing incident, which allegedly took place on the week of Sept. 26.
The hockey league refused to provide details of what occurred, but the teen's parents told CBC News their son first had to compete in a "rookie dance-off," in which new players were "encouraged to dance to sexy music and remove their clothing" in the team's dressing room, the father said.
"The more they would dance — or better — the more points they would get scored by the veterans," he added.
Because he did not score well in the dance-off, the 15-year-old boy had to undergo another ritual — which the team referred to as "Tug" — in which he was held down while a water bottle carrier, loaded with bottles and towels, was tied to his scrotum with a string.
"They told me that he had to tie a string around his scrotum and had to pull around water bottles around the dressing room floor three times," the boy's father said.
Seven rookies in all were subjected to similar treatment, the parents claimed, adding that players were rated on their ability to endure the ritual.
The 15-year-old boy told a friend about the situation, and word eventually got back to his parents.
The parents claimed that their son eventually told them that Brad Biggers, the team's assistant coach, was in the room during the hazing incident.
"I was appalled. I was like, 'Oh my God, this is going from bad to worse,' " the father said.
"So I went to work that day and I talked to a friend of mine who's involved in hockey and I said, 'What do I do?' "
But after the incident became public, the 15-year-old was forced to apologize to his teammates — some as old as 20 — and his coaches suggested that he take some time off from playing, the parents said.
The parents said their son has already missed seven games — more than the players who are being punished for their role.
"The highest penalty awarded was five games, and here we've got the victim already sitting out seven," the boy's mother said.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League maintains that the punishment handed to the players fits the offence, but commissioner Kim Davis told CBC News that the league will try to get the 15-year-old back on the ice as soon as possible.
Both parents said they hope the MHJL will help move their son to another team.
The league would not respond to questions of whether Biggers was present at the time of the hazing incident. Officials with the Neepawa Natives team declined to comment on Wednesday.
The RCMP is investigating.
The boy's parents said while the entire family has faced criticism from within the community, they hope that by speaking out they will prevent similar future incidents.
"Hopefully, it will get people talking," the mother said.
"Hopefully it will get these kids side by side with each other, saying … this is unacceptable and we will unite against it rather than unite to keep it quiet.'"