Western University women's hockey team to stage boycott over coach's return: 'Don't silence us'

Western's coach was recently cleared in a third-party investigation after being accused of psychological abuse and failing to report sexual harassment.

Players on Western University women's hockey team said they will boycott all hockey-related activities if head coach Candice Moxley continues in her role. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins)
Players on Western University women's hockey team said they will boycott all hockey-related activities if head coach Candice Moxley continues in her role. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins)

Western University's women's hockey team will boycott all team activities if head coach Candice Moxley returns to the team.

Moxley was recently cleared of all wrongdoing in a third-party investigation after being accused of failing to act on complaints from players about the team's strength and conditioning coach, Jeff Watson, sexually harassing them. Watson is no longer employed by the university.

Moxley, who is slated to return to the team Monday, was also accused of psychologically abusing players, telling them she “didn’t care” about their mental health, that they were replaceable and criticized players for social media posts that were “too revealing,” according to TSN's Rick Westhead. She also allegedly pressured a player to play through a knee injury and threatened to bench the player for the rest of the season if they didn’t play through it.

Players explained their stance in a letter to Western University president Alan Shepard on Thursday.

“The concerns we brought to the university should not be taken lightly,” part of the three-page statement read. “Why is Coach Moxley’s treatment of us (past and present) being swept under the rug?

"You as the president have a duty to show the university that you stand with the students. You stand with survivors... Don't ignore us. Don't silence us."

One specific complaint alleges that upon being informed by a player that Watson had touched them inappropriately, Moxley told the player to wear longer shorts as a means of avoiding the problem.

Western will not be making the findings of their investigation public because they “detailed employment matters,” a university spokesperson said in an email to TSN.

London lawyer Elizabeth Hewitt was hired by Western to conduct the investigation. The players said they do not believe the investigation was fair, unbiased and transparent, specifically calling out Hewitt's ties to the university. Hewitt is a former board chair of Western's Brescia University College and King’s University College and was a Western adjunct law professor.

“How can we trust that this investigation was unbiased?” read the letter. “Why wasn’t an independent investigator used?

“Ms. Hewitt found that, after conducting the interviews, some of our allegations against Jeff Watson were confirmed. Why is the university not being transparent about which allegations were confirmed by Ms. Hewitt?”

The players also took issue with the university's lack of action after complaints were filed to the school's athletic director, Christine Stapleton, in March 2023. The players claim Stapleton did not respond to their request for a meeting until they met with Vice Provost John Doerksen in June 2023. In that meeting, Doerksen allegedly said he was told by Stapleton the complaints about Moxley were "minor."

Moxley, 41, has been Western’s head coach since the 2018-19 season. Before arriving in London, Moxley was an assistant coach with the Markham Thunder and spent four seasons as the head coach of Buffalo State College, an NCAA DIII program.