CBC News - Former Humboldt Broncos board members say a fund set up in the days after the fatal bus crash was an attempt by the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League president to go behind their backs and capitalize on the tragedy.
They say they're talking about this now because they didn't have the energy to do it at the time, as they were dealing with the fallout.
On April 9, 2018, just days after the crash that killed 16 people, Bill Chow stood in the Humboldt Broncos arena, team jerseys hanging behind him, to announce the SJHL Assistance Program.
He said it would provide "mental health assistance, counselling and grieving for all the players of the SJHL" in the coming days, months and years.
He told the assembled national media that if there was money left over, it would go toward the SJHL education fund "in the memory of the lives lost on April the 6th."
For years, Chow has wanted to offer scholarships to help the league attract better players. As far back as 2014, in a post on the SJHLwebsite, Chow was quoted as saying he continued to "turn rocks over for new finances" in his quest to create a league scholarship.
Chow told CBC News that if enough money was raised, "possibly a scholarship program would be created."
Former Broncos treasurer Darrin Duell said he believes Chow was exploiting the team's tragedy, and he questioned Chow's timing.
"It was disgusting and opportunistic," Duell said. "On Monday morning after a tragedy of the proportion of April 6th, to go and raise money for the league for your scholarship program — that is outrageous."
He said Chow made the announcement without consulting or informing the team.
"Why would they need to raise [millions of] dollars for a league with less than 300 players?" - Darrin Duell , former Humboldt Broncos treasurer.
In the wake of the tragedy, donations began pouring in from around the globe, and Duell believes Chow "wanted to get in front of that and take advantage of the fact that people were ready to donate."
"I feel like he took that goodwill and abused it.'
Duell said that from the beginning the idea of a multimillion-dollar fund for mental health made no sense to him.
He pointed out that mental health supports were there from the start. The Red Cross was on the scene providing service directly to the families and had offered SJHLplayers a free online mental health self-assessment.
In his opinion, the mental health focus of Chow's program was just window-dressing.
"I was thinking 'He's going to spend a little tiny bit of money on mental health intervention to create some legitimacy around what he was doing, and then the bulk of the money was going to be used for scholarships,'" Duell told CBC News.
The program raised about $2 million in donations.
Chow says so far the program has spent $100,000 on counselling services and given $20,000 to the Canadian Junior Hockey League to help establish a national concussion program.
Duell said the fact that just five per cent of the fund has been spent on mental health one year after the tragedy confirms his suspicions.
"I felt right away that this was just misleading. Like, why would they need to raise [millions of] dollars for a league with less than 300 players?" said Duell.
It is just insane to me that the President of a league would do something like this. He didn't see this bus crash as a tragedy, he instead saw it as an opportunity to make money and try to pass it off like he is doing something for humanity. Bill Chow should not be involved in the SJHL or Junior Hockey as a whole. So many kids lost their lives in this horrific accident and he decides to start a GoFundMe and not use the money for what it was portrayed to be used for.
He jumped on stage and begged people to donate tons of money that would eventually go to help mental illness and the families that are suffering, then decided to donate only a percentage of it.
I really wonder just how much this guy has made throughout this whole thing.
Chow even said that it became clear to him that the tragedy would impact the entire SJHL for years to come, which would create additional costs. He said it was important to immediately create a fund focused on those long-term needs.
So at the end of the day this guy really was just thinking in a business sense and trying to capitalize on a horrific tragedy that caused so much loss in the hockey world.
Rob Eichorst, former governor of the Humboldt Broncos, said that he doesn't oppose the idea of a scholarship for SJHL players, and agrees it would be good for recruitment. But he felt the the league rushing in to establish the fund was inappropriate.
"We had funerals to go to and he was raising money."
It got to the point where there were disputes on who has "ownership" of the hashtags and the logos that were being used after this horrific crash. That is just absolutely ridiculous. Chow trademarked the #HumboldtStrong hashtag that was wildly used on Twitter to help spread the word throughout the hockey community and help people mourn together and ultimately become closer as a hockey community.
Read the full Article Here: 'Disgusting and opportunistic' $2M Humboldt Broncos-inspired fund embroiled in conflict - to get a broader picture of the entire story and what has changed in recent months with the SJHL and this situation.
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