At the age of 29, Garrett Taylor has developed a facial tic and routinely cracks his jaw, even when he’s sleeping. He struggles keeping steady employment and finding a true career path. He suffers from depression and sometimes has random panic attacks. He has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and has been institutionalized. “It’s manageable, but it’s never curable,” said Taylor’s mother, Kim. “He has struggled along the way. It hasn’t been easy since he hung up the skates.”
The abuse class action lawsuit launched against the Canadian Hockey League last week has two public faces. The first, and most prominent, is former NHLer Daniel Carcillo, whose allegations have been well documented. Carcillo alleges he endured unspeakable acts, then went on to play 10 years of pro hockey, winning two Stanley Cups and amassing $7.4 million in career earnings.
The other face in this lawsuit is Garrett Taylor, who played just 79 games of major junior hockey over two seasons in the Western League, then finished his career playing nine games for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL. Taylor did not endure sexual abuse during his time with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders, but alleges in his statement of claim that the abuse he endured, “left him permanently traumatized. He suffered severe mental health issues (that) were not present before the abuse he endured. He was hospitalized for a lengthy period after his time in the WHL. He continues to suffer from the psychological and physical injuries he suffered while playing in the WHL.”
The crux of Taylor’s argument stems from an alleged incident that ended his time with the Hurricanes. Early in the 2009-10 season, Taylor’s second with the Hurricanes, he alleges he was removed from the team bus just moments before it was due to depart for a road trip to be told he was being reassigned to the Canmore Eagles Jr. A team. “The humiliation of the way he was cut really was his PTSD moment,” Kim Taylor said. “It was a life-changing moment for him.”
The statement of claim refers to the incident as “the garbage bag treatment,” a term that is well known in junior hockey circles that refers to when a player is dropped by his team. Kim Taylor said when her son was reassigned, there were no calls made to any of her, Taylor’s agent or his billet family. Nor was he given any money or further direction. The lawsuit alleges that he was told the news in front of the team and had to retrieve his belongings from the bus and his equipment from the storage area. Kim Taylor said she learned of the situation when the father of one of her son’s teammates called her to tell her that his son was upset by the situation. “He had five minutes to… this coach is waiting for him and that he needs to go there,” Kim said. “And that’s it. You’re done. He’s told to leave the billets and report to Canmore. That’s how I found out. Isn’t that nice?”
Kim Taylor wants people to know that she has no issue with the fact that her son was deemed not good enough to play in the WHL. She also pointed out that she noticed some signs of depression and anxiety in her son when he was playing minor hockey in California before he began in the WHL. It’s the way his situation was handled that she believes scarred her son. And she has a point. When junior hockey wants to justify paying its players poverty wages, it refers to them as “student athletes” and “amateurs”, but when some of its teams cut players loose, they expect them to take it like adult professionals. You can’t suck and blow at the same time. Kim Taylor said her son called her from Canmore before his first practice in the midst of a panic attack that he thought was a heart attack. She believes that’s what triggered his the OCD he lives with to this day.
There were other allegations in the Taylor lawsuit that appear to center around Michael Dyck (although he is not mentioned by name in the statement of claim), who was the Hurricanes coach during Taylor’s rookie season and is now the head coach of the Vancouver Giants. (To be clear, Dyck was no longer the coach of the Hurricanes when Taylor was reassigned in 2009-10. TheHockeyNews.com has tried to contact Dyck through the Giants, but has not received a reply.) It was alleged in the statement of claim that the head coach provided the team credit card to one of the veterans for a rookie party, where players were made to dress in women’s clothing and consume large amounts of alcohol, to the point where some players were blacking out and vomiting. “It’s illegal, that’s the bottom line,” Kim said. “I don’t think I need to say anything more.”
The statement of claim also alleges that, during his rookie season, the head coach took Taylor aside in practices and demanded he fight to increase the intensity level of the group. Kim Taylor said her son had three documented concussions during his WHL career, “and Garrett said one of his worst concussions happened doing that, fighting in a practice.”
None of the allegations has been proven in court and there has been no specific amount of damages set out in the statement of claim. But Kim Taylor said the purpose of the lawsuit is to affect change in junior hockey. “We love hockey,” she said. “We just want to ensure this doesn’t happen to other families.”