Western University’s women’s hockey coach, who’s at the centre of a conflict that saw some players threaten to boycott games, says she’s returning to the ice ready to support the team.
Candice Moxley was part of an independent investigation following players’ allegations of misconduct. Some said they were forced to play while injured.
Moxley was cleared of wrongdoing last week and a strength and conditioning coach was dismissed.
“This has been a terribly difficult time — for women’s hockey at Western and for me as a coach,” Moxley said in an email Thursday. “I have certainly reflected during this experience and will continue to grow and better myself as a leader.”
At a meeting Wednesday with university administration, students were asked for feedback on how they feel about Moxley’s return. Some had sent a letter to the president’s office last week in response to the results of the investigation.
In the letter, they called into question the impartiality of the investigation by London lawyer Elizabeth Hewitt, she served in a voluntary role with the Faculty of Law.
“We had an expectation that Western University would believe us, the survivors of psychological abuse we faced from coach Moxley,” the letter stated.
Player feedback survey
Western’s vice-provost, John Doerksen, met with players Wednesday. He told CBC in a statement that the letter was not signed or endorsed by the entire team. Players were asked to fill out a confidential survey signalling their intentions to remain on the team this season under Moxley’s leadership, he added.
“We asked them to consider responding by today [Thursday] at 4 p.m. due to our need to plan for this weekend’s games. If the team did not intend to continue, we would need to let (Ontario University Athletics) know before the weekend for operational consideration,” Doerksen wrote. “We can confirm the vast majority of student athletes have indicated their intentions to continue playing for the 2023/24 season.”
Some players requested more time to consider their options and the survey remains open, he said.
CBC News has reached out to a number of players on the Western women’s hockey team and has not received a response. The individual who shared the letter to the president with CBC News said they have been told not to talk.
According to some players, the first informal complaints about misconduct were launched in February 2022 and were not addressed in a transparent way by staff, and there was no followup.
“Everything was just swept under the rug,” the letter states.
Western has said it hired Hewitt to investigate two coaches in July 2023.
In her investigation into Jeff Watson, a strength and conditioning coach for the team, Hewitt interviewed 38 individuals and determined that some, but not all of the allegations against him were substantiated, a university spokesperson said.
In her investigation into Moxley, the university says Hewitt interviewed 45 individuals and determined that allegations against the coach were not legitimate and informal complaints were addressed properly.
“I have always wanted nothing but their success, as a team and as individuals, and for them to thrive as student-athletes. I will continue to do everything I can to support them in that goal,” Moxley said.
She added she has been away from the team providing caregiving for a family member and intends to return with the goal of creating a positive and productive experience.