Two teenage hockey players say they saw manipulation, along with abusive and inappropriate behaviour, during a season with Madison Biluk as their head coach on an under-18 team in Alberta.
Biluk, who has coached in both Alberta and Manitoba, has been charged with 15 offences, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual interference and luring, Winnipeg police said last week.
They say the charges stem from a sexually exploitative relationship that occurred between 2019 and 2021 in Manitoba between Biluk, now 28 years old, and a teenage player.
The investigation started last month, police said, after a social media post detailed allegations of abuse.
Now, two players are detailing what they experienced during the 2021-22 season with the U18 AA Rocky Mountain Raiders, based in Okotoks, Alta., when Biluk was the team’s head coach.
CBC has also learned parents in Alberta raised concerns with officials in a letter about Biluk during her time there, but that didn’t prevent her from coaching in Manitoba the next season.
CBC is not identifying the two players who spoke about their time on the Alberta team.
One said Biluk would be hot and cold with players, played mind games and would twist people’s words if she was challenged.
“It was a lot of mental and emotional abuse,” said the player. “She created this sense that I always needed to have her validate me in anything I did.… It was almost like she knew how to get to me, and she would use it to her power.”
The player said while she didn’t experience anything physical, she did notice behaviour she thought was inappropriate.
Early in the season, at a team-bonding event in Banff, Alta., she said Biluk stayed up late, drinking alcohol around players and talking with them about their sex lives.
Another time, on a team bus, the player said she saw one of her teammates with their legs draped across Biluk.
“[Biluk] had been, like, kind of caressing … on the teammate’s legs,” said the player. “I just was, like … it’s kind of weird to do with your coach.”
Behaviour ‘caught … most of us off guard’
Another player who spoke with CBC said she thought having a female head coach was great at first.
But she found Biluk would often yell and belittle players, and had favourites who were treated differently, the player said.
“They didn’t get in trouble,” she said. “They weren’t held accountable for their actions.”
The player said she’s aware of times when Biluk would hang out or communicate with players outside of practice or games, including at a rookie party that season.
After Biluk went home, the coach ended up on FaceTime with one of the players into the early morning hours, the player said.
“It definitely caught … most of us off guard,” said the player.
She said she’s speaking out to show players that there’s support for them, and to say what they experienced wasn’t appropriate.
Letter sent to athletic association
It’s not clear at what point the first formal complaint was made about Biluk’s behaviour as a coach.
But CBC News has obtained a letter from six families sent to the president of the Okotoks Oilers Athletic Association, which is responsible for the Raiders, in March 2022 that lists a number of complaints regarding the team’s coaching during that season.
Some of the complaints outlined Biluk’s relationship with certain players.
In one case, the letter states that “during initial team overnight trip, Madi took players on fast food runs at 1 a.m. … and then set her alarm to take other players at 5 a.m.”
The letter also refers to Biluk being in contact with players on FaceTime.
“If she was a man she would be kicked out of coaching and I believe this definitely crossed a boundary,” the letter said.
One parent told CBC they received no official response to the letter.
The Okotoks Oilers Athletic Association and the Okotoks Minor Hockey Association have not responded to any emails sent by CBC.
Biluk did not coach the Raiders for a second season, but did return to Manitoba to coach the U18 female AAA Winnipeg Ice during the 2022-23 season.
The team, the league and Hockey Winnipeg would not say whether anyone reached out to Biluk’s previous teams before hiring her again in Manitoba.
‘Lots of tears’: parent
Stacey Running Rabbit’s daughter played on the Okotoks team the year Biluk coached, and said she wasn’t comfortable with what she saw during that season.
“That was probably one of my daughter’s hardest years in hockey,” said Running Rabbit.
“It was lots of tears.… You hear the rumblings of things that were not going well and didn’t seem right.”
Hearing that Biluk was allowed to coach again somewhere else after concerns were raised following that season makes her question the processes in place for hiring coaches, said Running Rabbit.
“I think a better vetting should be taking place,” said Running Rabbit.
“I think there has to be a willingness from associations to admit sometimes that maybe they did make a wrong hire.”
Running Rabbit also wants parents to feel comfortable speaking out about concerns they have, without worrying about how it’s going to affect their child who is playing the sport.
“We’re not scorned people,” she said.
“We’re not just trying to find the ice time for our kids. We’re sitting there as parents going, ‘this doesn’t seem right. Just listen to us. Listen to what we have to say. We know our kids. We know when things are off. Please don’t tell us that they just need to be resilient.'”
None of the charges against Biluk have been proven in court. She was released following her arrest with conditions.
Biluk could not be reached for comment.
Hockey Manitoba has declined all interviews about Biluk’s case, and said in a statement last week that an investigation by Hockey Canada’s independent third party is ongoing.
Support is available through Winnipeg Police Service victim services at 204-986-6350 and the Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 204-786-8631.