Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith ousted, board of directors resigns

Hockey Canada Scott Smith
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Hockey Canada ousted CEO Scott Smith on Tuesday and the board of directors also resigned due to a series of scandals that have rocked the sport’s national federation to its core.

Smith spent nearly three decades climbing the ladder at Hockey Canada and lasted just three months at the top, unable to survive the fallout related to how Hockey Canada handled sexual assault allegations and how the organization paid out settlements.

Hockey Canada said in a statement that an interim management committee will be put in place to guide the organization until a new board, which is set to be elected in December, appoints Smith’s successor.

Hockey Canada said the outgoing board recognized “the urgent need for new leadership and new perspectives” in stepping down.

Former board chair Michael Brind’Amour resigned in August and interim chair Andrea Skinner stepped down Saturday after politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called for leadership change and corporate sponsors jumped ship.

Smith took over from outgoing CEO Tom Renney on July 1 after a succession plan was announced in April. But Hockey Canada’s world started to come crashing down shortly thereafter.

TSN was first to report in May that an undisclosed settlement had been paid to a woman who alleged in a $3.55 million lawsuit she was sexually assaulted by eight players — including members of the country’s world junior team — after a 2018 Hockey Canada gala in London, Ontario.

Police in London later said they would reopen the investigation into the 2018 incident, and the NHL is also conducting an investigation because many of the players from that junior team are now in the league.

Then there was the revelation that Hockey Canada had a secretive fund partly maintained by minor hockey registration fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual assault and abuse claims.

A Hockey Canada official testified in July that the organization had doled out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and abuse claims since 1989 — not including this year’s payout to the London plaintiff. The majority went to the victims of disgraced former junior hockey coach Graham James.

The organization also has said members of the 2003 men’s world junior team are being investigated for a group sexual assault. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Hockey Canada has had its federal funding cut off.

Also Tuesday, Bauer Hockey paused its partnership as the official equipment provider for Hockey Canada’s men’s teams and its sponsorship of men’s tournaments, calling the repeated breach of trust by the national organization’s leadership “extremely disturbing.”

Bauer said Hockey Canada will be able to purchase gear for men’s programs, with profits being invested in hockey programs for girls, women and other underrepresented communities. It also will continue to supply equipment to the women’s programs.

Bauer’s move follows similar announcements by sponsors including Nike, Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons.

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Jessie Diggins ties U.S. record for World Cup cross-country skiing wins

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Jessie Diggins tied Kikkan Randall‘s U.S. record with her 13th career individual cross-country skiing World Cup victory, taking a 10km freestyle in Lillehammer, Norway, on Friday.

Diggins, the most decorated U.S. Olympic cross-country skier with a medal of every color, prevailed by 3.8 seconds over German Katharina Hennig in the interval start event. Diggins trailed Hennig by one second at the 8.2-kilometer split, then made up 4.8 seconds over the final four minutes of the course.

“My fitness and brain were in a really good place,” Diggins said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “When I asked my body to go deep into the pain cave, it responded.”

Diggins tied the record of Randall, who in 2007 became the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup cross-country skiing race and ended her career by teaming with Diggins to win the first U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing title at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. (Another skier, Alison Owen-Spencer, won a race in 1978 that U.S. Ski and Snowboard counts as a World Cup, but the International Ski Federation does not.)

Diggins opened this World Cup season last weekend in Ruka, Finland, with a best finish of 10th among three races. She trended up each day, finishing that stop with the second-fastest time in last Sunday’s individual pursuit (where she started 19th).

Diggins, 31, has spread out her goals this season. One of the biggest is helping the U.S. win a relay medal for the first time at the world championships in three months. Diggins has been a part of relays that finished fourth at four different worlds.

She also eyes the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport that goes to the best all-around skier for the season. In 2020-21, Diggins became the second American — and first American woman — to win the overall in a season where Norway’s top skiers, including superstar Therese Johaug, skipped early season races and chances to gain points for the overall title.

Johaug retired after winning three individual golds at last February’s Olympics. Diggins is the top returning skier given the absence of reigning overall champ Natalya Nepryayeva, who cannot compete due to the ban on Russian athletes for the war in Ukraine.

The World Cup season continues with a freestyle sprint on Saturday and a classic 20km mass start on Sunday in Lillehammer.

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Katie Ledecky out-touches new rival at swimming’s U.S. Open, extends streak

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It was a rare sight: Katie Ledecky being matched stroke for stroke in a distance race in an American pool. She was up for the challenge.

Ledecky out-touched emerging 16-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh by eight hundredths of a second in the 400m freestyle at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Ledecky and McIntosh were tied at the 300-meter mark. Ledecky ended up clocking 3:59.71 to McIntosh’s 3:59.79 to extend a decade-long win streak in freestyle races of 400 meters or longer in U.S. pools.

“I know we’ll have a lot more races ahead of us,” Ledecky said on Peacock. “We bring the best out of each other.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with live finals coverage on Peacock at 6 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

At the Tokyo Olympics, McIntosh placed fourth in the 400m free at age 14.

She accelerated this year, taking silver behind Ledecky at the world championships and silver behind Tokyo gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Then in October, McIntosh outdueled Ledecky in a 400m free — also by eight hundredths — in a short-course, 25-meter pool at a FINA World Cup meet in Toronto. Long-course meets like the Olympics and the U.S. Open are held in 50-meter pools.

McIntosh also won world titles in the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

A potential showdown among Ledecky, Titmus and McIntosh at the 2024 Paris Games is already being compared to the “Race of the Century,” the 2004 Olympic men’s 200m free where Australian Ian Thorpe edged Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband and Michael Phelps.

In other events Thursday, Regan Smith, an Olympic and world medalist in the backstroke and butterfly, won a 200m individual medley in a personal best 2:10.40, a time that would have placed fifth at June’s world championships. She beat 16-year-old Leah Hayes, who took bronze in the event at worlds.

Olympic 400m IM champ Chase Kalisz won the men’s 200m IM in 1:56.52, his best time ever outside of major summer meets. Frenchman Léon Marchand won the world title in 1:55.22 in June, when Kalisz was fourth.

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