A member of a Nova Scotia university hockey team has taken responsibility for making comments that led to a bench-clearing brawl last weekend.
Acadia University’s Rodney Southam admitted to making a comment about sexual assault to an opposing player during a physical confrontation when playing against the St. Francis Xavier X-Men on Saturday night.
Southam claims in a statement issued late Thursday night to have been unaware that Sam Studnicka, the target of his comment, has a sexual assault survivor in his family.
“Immediately after my comments to Sam, I realized something more was happening because of the reaction from the team and surrounding coaches,” said Southam. “I know when this was said that the linesman heard it and so did the X-Men players on their bench. I take full responsibility for saying something I should never have said.”
Southam said he told Studnicka “You look like a little (expletive) rapist.” Minutes later, Southam and Studnicka were to take a faceoff against each other, but after two false starts, the melee began.
The brawl led to five Axemen players, eight X-Men and both head coaches being ejected. Video of the fight went viral.
Atlantic University Sport, which oversees university sport in the region, launched an investigation and suspended the two head coaches and 15 players on Wednesday. During the investigation Southam told AUS executive director Phil Currie of his role in the incident.
The AUS and St. Francis Xavier University did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday night.
Studnicka, through his university, issued a statement on Monday explaining he had regularly been targeted with comments about sexual assault in his three years playing for St. FX.
— Acadia Athletics (@AcadiaAthletics) February 8, 2019
He said there’s no place for comments about sexual assault in society as it’s a very serious issue.
Southam, who was captain for two seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, said he was completely unaware of Studnicka’s relationship to a sexual assault survivor.
“In my year and a half at Acadia, we’ve had battles with St. FX but nothing to do with comments around sexual violence,” he said. “I’ve read in the St. FX statement that those types of comments have been a continuous and ongoing part of the games between our teams, but this issue has never come up in our locker room or any other time during my year and a half at Acadia.”
Southam also explained in his statement that when he was playing junior hockey he was accused of sexual assault but allegations against him didn’t proceed.
He said he carries those allegations with him and is frequently the target of taunts calling him a rapist.
“Because the taunts I endured are never far below the surface and are always in the back of my mind, that’s why I think I said what I said in the heat of the moment on Saturday,” Southam said. “I do know I wish I could take that word back and I should have known better.”
Official complaints have been filed by the AUS on five athletes and three coaches involved in Saturday’s incident and will be subject to a secondary review process.
Additional evidence will be gathered to determine if further sanctions are needed.
The Canadian Press