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A Hockey Canada logo on the door to the organizations head office in Calgary, on Nov. 6, 2022. Hockey Canada sponsors Tim Hortons, Esso and Telus will have a presence during the world juniors.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Some major sponsors are reinstating their partnerships with Hockey Canada ahead of the high-profile world junior championship tournament, more than a year after many brands suspended their support of the organization amid a sexual-assault scandal.

Tim Hortons, Esso and Telus T-T all said on Wednesday that their brands will have a presence during the world juniors, which are taking place in Gothenburg, Sweden, starting Dec. 26. The move by the three companies, which make up Hockey Canada’s “premier marketing partners,” its top tier of sponsorship, comes after sponsors were conspicuously absent from rink boards and other branding opportunities around last year’s tournaments.

All three were among the companies that announced in the summer of 2022 that they were pausing support for Hockey Canada’s men’s teams amid a backlash over how the organization handled allegations of sexual assault.

“We made it clear that we would only reinstate funding for Canada’s men’s teams when they did the work to regain the confidence of Canadians, and it appears to us that they have made substantial progress with new leadership,” Tim Hortons spokesperson Michael Oliveira wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

Bauer Hockey also reinstated its partnership with Hockey Canada this past July, after the appointment of Katherine Henderson as its new president and chief executive officer. In a statement at the time, Bauer’s vice-president of global marketing, Mary-Kay Messier, called on corporate partners to support Hockey Canada, while continuing “to hold the organization accountable for creating and executing a new vision that reflects our Canadian communities and provides equitable and enriching experiences for all to play the game.” Ms. Messier served on Hockey Canada’s CEO recruitment committee.

But not all sponsors are coming back: Another premier marketing partner, Nike NKE-N, said in July that it had ended its sponsorship after more than two decades. Others including Canadian Tire CTC-T and Hankook Tire Canada also permanently cut off their sponsorships in the wake of the scandal.

And Bank of Nova Scotia BNS-T said on Wednesday that its sponsorship is focused on women’s hockey programming this year.

“As such Scotiabank will not have a presence at the IIHF World Junior Championship and instead, we will continue to redirect our support towards truly making hockey for all which to us, in part, means supporting women who pursue Canada’s game,” spokesperson Doug Johnson wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Hockey Canada’s previous CEO and its entire board of directors resigned last October, as the organization faced questions about the funds it used to pay a settlement to a woman who said she had been sexually assaulted in London, Ont., by players from Canada’s world junior team, after a Hockey Canada-sponsored event in 2018. London police reopened an investigation into the incident last summer.

Last July, a Globe and Mail investigation revealed that Hockey Canada had created a fund using player registration fees, which was used to pay an undisclosed sum to settle a $3.55-million lawsuit launched by the woman. Hockey Canada did not disclose how the money was being used to players or their parents. Last October, The Globe revealed that the organization also used registration fees to build a second multimillion-dollar fund to protect various branches of Hockey Canada from sexual-assault claims.

Amid those revelations, and after parliamentary hearings into the matter, a number of sponsors that had at first paused their support said they were pulling all sponsorship of the men’s events for the 2022-23 season. Those included the premier partners as well as Bank of Nova Scotia and BFL Canada and Recipe Unlimited Corp., which owns Swiss Chalet and The Keg. A number of the sponsors who pulled support for the men’s programs still continued to support women’s and youth programs through their Hockey Canada partnerships.

“As passionate hockey fans, we’re committed to supporting changes that make the sport safe and inclusive for all and look forward to working with Hockey Canada and their new leadership team to help drive positive change, on and off the ice,” Telus spokesperson Saara Rahikka wrote in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.

Keri Scobie, public and government affairs manager at Imperial Oil IMO-T, wrote in a statement that Esso “will be cheering on Team Canada” and will have rink board signage at the tournament. “We remain committed to continuing working with Hockey Canada to improve inclusivity and transparency within Canada’s game,” she wrote.

Other sponsors did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Hockey Canada did not respond to questions about how many sponsors have reinstated support.

“Hockey Canada’s corporate partners have been very supportive and those who have remained with Hockey Canada have communicated a desire to be a part of changing the culture of the game in a positive way,” spokesperson Jeremy Knight wrote in an emailed statement on Thursday.

Hockey Canada has taken steps to address its culture and improve safety since last year, he wrote. Those measures include requiring athletes, coaches and staff on national teams to attend training on sexual violence and consent. The organization has also signed on to the Sport Integrity Commissioner’s Abuse-free Sport program for handling complaints of maltreatment within national sport organizations.

Even sponsors who have cut ties may have some presence during the world juniors broadcast, depending on sales of airtime during commercial breaks. Canadian Tire spokesperson Stephanie Nadalin said on Wednesday that the company had not specifically bought ads for the world juniors, but that the company’s commercials could air during games as part of a broader media buy. Hockey Canada’s official broadcasting partner, Bell Media’s TSN and RDS, did not respond to questions on Wednesday about whether advertising sales have risen for this year’s broadcast compared with last year.

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