Explained: Sweden's ongoing hockey federation scandal

Two prominent staffers are gone already and more may follow. We talk to Swedish journalist Uffe Bodin to make sense of a controversy that has enveloped the nation's federation.
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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

A scandal is roiling within the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, with two high-profile staffers pushed out of jobs and potentially more on the way.

The controversy began in early February during the Beijer Games (part of Europe's international schedule) in Stockholm, when news broke that police were investigating sexual harassment allegations within the federation’s offices. Then, in late March, longtime public relations manager Anders Feltenmark was let go, allegedly due to lack of work.

Feltenmark, who had been employed by the federation for more than 20 years and was widely respected within the Swedish hockey community, was also the union leader of the office. Uffe Bodin, editor-in-chief of HockeySverige.se, and his colleagues subsequently reported that Feltenmark had been the whistleblower on the harassment.

“Everything seemed shady, people were wondering what was going on," Bodin said. "I started to look into it with my sources within the federation and they told me not only did he make the report to police, but he was also involved in union grievances about the federation not living up to their collective bargaining agreement. There was also alleged gender discrimination with salaries and in Sweden, if you have the same qualifications, you should be getting the same salary no matter what your sex.”

In the wake of Feltenmark's dismissal, some members of Sweden's hockey royalty showed their support for the ousted executive. Borje Salming, Mats Naslund and Kent Nilsson were among those who put their names on a protest email condemning his removal. They sent a second email, reiterating their criticism of the board of directors and chairman/president Anders Larsson.

The Hockey News contacted the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation and was directed to an official statement, which reads, in part, that an agreement was made between the federation and Feltenmark upon the conclusion of his employment that includes a confidentiality provision. Because of that, the federation has not commented publicly on the matter, but it has "nothing to hide" and is open to the idea of letting an independent lawyer review the matter (quotes translated from Swedish):

"We are therefore prepared to accept from our side immediately that the confidentiality of the agreement is lifted so that such independent review can be done."

The federation’s general secretary, Tommy Boustedt, faced mounting pressure in the media about his handling of the situation and criticism for what some describe as a toxic atmosphere within the organization's offices. After initially resisting, Boustedt resigned on April 27.

“Insiders were painting a bleak picture of the federation," Bodin said. "People were scared. There was a culture of silence and the employees’ rights were (allegedly) being neglected.”

Boustedt has been hailed over the years for helping to improve Sweden’s international results, both at the men's and junior level. He seemed untouchable at the federation until the recent developments.

“Tommy Boustedt has done tremendous things for Swedish hockey,” Bodin said. “I don’t think we would have 100 Swedish players in the NHL today if it wasn’t for him.”

The harassment allegations and the fallout came on the heels of a strike by the national women’s team this past August. The women were fighting for increased funding and improved conditions.

"A lot of them didn’t feel that they were getting the respect they deserved,” Bodin said. “That was the first negative publicity for Boustedt and it spiralled from there."

With Boustedt out, the pressure falls squarely on the board and chairman Larsson.

“It’s a big circus right now, with a lot of pressure on the board," Bodin said. "This is far from over.”

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