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Ryan Munce had suicidal thoughts from alleged abuse in junior hockey

Ryan Munce will never forget his 2002-03 rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League, standing tall in the Sarnia Sting net for 27 regular-season games as a backup to No. 1 goalie Robert Gherson.

He remembers, as a 17-year-old, posting and stellar 2.64 goals-against average, three shutouts and .916 save percent. He also recalls what he describes as acts of abuse, and witnessing those against his teammates, by older players of the junior team.

In a interview with CBC News on Tuesday, Munce spoke of being spanked and hit the head with the paddle of his goalie stick in the Sting dressing room, while fellow rookies were strapped to a table and beaten with belts and other items.

"I had more suicidal thoughts than anything else," he told reporter Ioanna Roumeliotis for The National. "These are supposed to be your friends; they're kind of your family."

Watch Ryan Work detail abuse he alleges he suffered in junior hockey:

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, former Sarnia Sting goaltender Ryan Munce details the abuse he suffered while playing junior hockey. 3:11

Workers' comments follow those of former Sting teammate Daniel Carcillo, who has detailed his hazing experiences with the club in a 15-post story on Twitter last weekend in the wake of recent assault and sexual assault allegations at St. Michael's College School in Toronto.

Flung around by the hair

Work, now 33, said he witnessed some of the abuse perpetrated on Carcillo.

Work recalled that Carcillo had long hair back then, and would share gum with his teammates before games. He said one time Carcillo was flung around by his hair in full hockey gear by a teammate who sought more gum and then stole his.

"There was a lot of incidents that were kind of next-level," said Munce.

Other alleged incidents included:

  • A Jewish teammate being brought to tears by a teammate posing as Adolf Hitler.
  • A player is forced to put his penis in RUB A535, the muscle and joint heat cream.

Munce said he's glad Carcillo came forward – in stark contrast to their teenage years, when players in the "hockey community" were supposed to keep quiet.

Watch ex NHLer Daniel Carcillo explain the loneliness of abuse:

The two-time Stanley Cup champion discusses the hazing incident he remembers most vividly, when he says one of his OHL coaches took part in whipping a teammate with a belt. 0:51
Earlier this week, Carcillo talked about being beaten with the saw-off paddle of a goalie stick.

"The whole paddling thing kind of started with me," said Munce, who runs New Age Goaltending, and a school for beginners to advanced goalies, in Burlington, Ont.

Work told a Sting teammate approached his dressing stall and told the six-foot, 150-pound puck-stopper to bend over his knee. He spanked "Like a kid" and then beat him and other teammates with a sawed-off paddle.

Work was drafted to the NHL by the Los Angeles Kings in 2003 but never played a game. He toiled in minor for hockey before retiring in 2012. (Noah Graham / Getty Images)

Hid behind the couch

"If you flinched," he said, "they have to do it again. This was before and after games."

Work added that he was beaten with the same paddle at the rookie party because he was not drinking alcohol and spent the rest of the night hiding from the veteran players behind a couch.

Work said he and Carcillo would often discuss the abuse at the latter's billet home, breaking down each other, and later shared their experiences with teammates of Canada's under-18 squad.

Watch Carcillo speak out about alleged abuse:

Daniel Carcillo talks about some of the alleged abuse he experienced as a member of the Sarnia Sting. 1:29

"Constant abuse day in, day out," said Munce, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 2003 but never played a game in the NHL. He spent two more seasons in Sarnia before embarking on a six-year journey through the minor for ranks that included 13 games in the American Hockey League ahead of retirement in 2012.

Carcillo told The Canadian Press on Monday that Jeff Perry, Sarnia's head coach in 2002-03, was aware of the alleged treatment that he and other rookies were subjected to by their veteran teammates. Perry refuted that earlier this week to Blackburn News in Sarnia.

Former Sting Head Coach Jeff Perry says he was unaware of alleged abuse of rookie players by their older teammates during the 2002-03 OHL season. (The Sarnia Observer)

"There are certain areas of a dressing room that we do not monitor," said the 47-year-old Perry, who played in the OHL for Guelph and Owen Sound in the late 1980s.

"It's no different than riding the bus – I know people think you're on the bus, how could you not be aware of it?" "When you sit on the front of the bus, you've got movies on. was in that situation, you [wouldn’t] understand that they're easy things that you would not be aware of if it was not brought to your attention. "

CBC Sports has reached out to Perry for further comment.

Hockey culture has changed, says ex-Sting coach

In an emailed statement to Blackburn News, OHL said it has adopted a zero-tolerance approach to hazing, and has been implementing policies to prevent hazing or bullying for several years.

Perry, whom the Sting fired in late 2003 amid controversy over the staring of star players including Carcillo, said the culture nowadays in the OHL has changed.

"It does not make it right [what allegedly happened in 2002-03] but I think we are just so much more educated on hiring and bullying in general, "he said." They've done a great job doing the right thing.

"I have a teenage kid who just went through junior hockey, and I'm thankful that he does not have to share these same stories because he did not go through those situations."

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