Ice hockey: CHL forms independent panel to deal with abuse allegations

(Reuters) - The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) has launched an independent review panel in response to a class-action lawsuit by former junior players alleging systemic physical, mental and sexual abuse of teenage players, it said on Friday.

The CHL, the umbrella organisation overseeing Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues, said it was committed to an environment that is free of abuse, harassment and bullying, and provides zero tolerance for any such behaviour.

“We are deeply troubled by the allegations in the recently announced class action, many of which are historic in nature and we believe are not indicative of the leading experience our players receive in the CHL today,” the CHL said in a statement.

“Regardless of the timing, we are taking the claims very seriously as the protection of our players has been and will always be our primary concern.”

The lawsuit alleges the CHL and its three member leagues have been complicit for decades in bullying and abuse of underage players by coaches, team staff and senior players.

The CHL said it hopes to have the review process completed in time for the start of the 2020-21 season.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond