Leamington teens quit hockey team over alleged bullying
A Leamington minor hockey team is under fire tonight by two of its players and their parents. The young men quit the team after what they call a bullying incident in late January.
Josh Bluhm loves hockey. He's played the sport since he was four, but in late January, his hockey season came to an abrupt end.
Bluhm played forward for the Southpoint Capitols, a Leamington minor hockey team. All season, he says he was bullied by five of his team mates. Bluhm kept quiet, until two back to back incidents he says, forced him to walk away from the league.
“At this point I was thinking it was a joke. Then thinking this wasn't a joke, this is kind of mean.”
The first incident, he says, happened when he was locked in a bathroom for 15 minutes. The following night before a game, he says his hockey equipment was thrown in a garbage pail and he was also told some teammates had urinated on his clothes.
“When (the) game started, I went in my dressing room, got all my stuff and never played again,” Bluhm says.
After the second incident, Bluhm's teammate Justin Church also quit the team. In doing so, he had to leave his travel team as well but he says it’s worth it. Church believes the issue of bullying needs to be addressed.
“It's something we should all look at,” Church says. “Bullying has taken place a lot more than people realize and it continues.”
The Southpoint Minor Hockey Association admits a bullying incident occurred. During a meeting, the league says players were told the entire team would be suspended if no one fessed up. Eventually one player did and he was suspended. However, both Bluhm and Church say four more players were also involved. Bluhm’s mother says there needs to be a zero tolerance and more accountability.
“If they keep getting away with it and (there’s) no consequence (it’s) gonna continue and I fear it'll get worse,” says Wendy Bluhm.
In a statement to CTV News, the league says it’s recently learned more information about the incident and says it's "opening a complete, thorough investigation into all acts regarding this incident, as well as additional incidents that may relate to this team."
“That’s my son. It irks me to hear he was treated like that.”
Right after the incident, Wendy Bluhm says she notified the coaches to let them know what happened. She was told "it was a prank" and the incident was brushed off.
“No one called my son to see how he was or how he was affected.”
CTV News reached out to the coach, who says he's not prepared to comment.
Church has taken on this issue too. He is going to continue to push the league to introduce a rule that would suspend a player for the entire season if they're caught bullying.
“I'm not there to make enemies. I’m here to make positive change for this organization and many others,” Church says. “If people don't want to be my friend because of something I’m standing up for, I don't want to be their friends anyway.”