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How did a healthy teen die at a minor hockey camp?


W5 has removed or blurred certain visuals depicting various hockey players to ensure no one misinterpreted the program to suggest every hockey player visually represented was at the camp. While CTV does not agree such an interpretation is reasonable it has removed or blurred the visuals in the interests of abundant caution.

Our story on the life and death of Ben Teague began with a tip.

In the summer of 2022, I received a phone call suggesting that I learn more about a lawsuit filed by a family who lived in Oakville. Greg and Susan Teague’s 17-year-old son Ben had died during a team bonding event in September 2019.

The Teagues had filed a $1-million wrongful death lawsuit against the Oakville Rangers Hockey Club, the team’s coaches, the Ontario Minor Hockey Association and the YMCA camp where Ben had died. No media had reported on their claim.

Supplied photo of Ben Teague playing for the Oakville Rangers Hockey Club.

Over the past year, since reporting on a scandal about an alleged sexual assault involving Team Canada junior hockey players, a day doesn’t go by without someone emailing or sending me a direct message on Twitter that usually begins, “You should look into…”

There are so many suggestions, we have to carefully choose the stories in which we make an investment of time and resources.

I obtained the Teague’s 12-page statement of claim, filed on Jan. 26, 2022. It detailed how Ben and his teammates had allegedly been drinking alcohol at a team-supervised event and that Ben had died after going into medical distress during the middle of the night.

The claim states that "had the individual Defendants acted appropriately and sought medical attention when it was obvious, or ought to have been obvious, that Ben was in need of same he would not have died that morning… The Plaintiffs further plead that had the individual Defendants properly monitored the players and prevented them from consuming alcohol that Ben would not have died that morning."

The statement also detailed the Teagues’ attempts to make the Rangers team and its coaches accountable. It said the Teagues filed a complaint with the Ontario Hockey Federation, the association that has oversight of hockey leagues in the province. The OHF did not respond, so the Teagues emailed again two months later.

The OHF responded the same day, telling the Teagues their case was being investigated by Crawford & Co., an insurance company. The Teagues allege no one has followed up with them since then.

In a statement of defence, the Rangers, their coaches, and the OMHA argued that player codes of conduct "precluded the underage players from drinking alcohol. The [Oakville Rangers] had Zero Tolerance for alcohol consumption. All players, including Benjamin, were aware that they were not permitted to bring alcohol to the event and were not to consume alcoholic beverages while in attendance at the event."

The defendants also argued that the coaches "provided reasonable and appropriate supervision to the players, taking into consideration the age and experience of the players. The players were 16 and 17 years old."

Susan and Greg Teague have been searching for answers since their 17-year-old son Ben died while at a team retreat in 2019 (W5)

Reporting on the death of children is difficult, obviously. Instead of going to the Teagues directly, I reached out to their lawyer and asked whether he would ask the family to meet with me, on their terms, in a place of their choosing.

We agreed to meet in their backyard so I could hear their story. There would be no reporting unless we all agreed to move forward. The initial terms were simple. It was up to the Teagues to sleep on it and speak with their other children before deciding whether they wanted to work with us.

I took notes during our meeting.

"I’d like to put out a bulletin in a newspaper telling parents, 'Do not trust these people,'" Greg Teague told me. "We have advanced so much as a society. But in hockey, there is still drinking and naked hazing. Twenty years ago it was all out in the open and people said, 'Well, that’s just hockey.' Now, it still happens but it’s hidden. They could have prevented this if they had just properly supervised these kids. They had no right to take these kids on an overnight trip and not watch them."

"I want those coaches to say they are sorry," Susan Teague said. "I need them to be held accountable. I want my son’s reputation back. These teams and leagues say they have rules that are followed, that there is zero tolerance for alcohol consumption by minors. Well, in this case, there have been no consequences. The OHF told us that it was investigating. How is it possible coaches under investigation are still coaching and that there are no consequences for players drinking under age? Within a week of Ben’s funeral, the team turned the page and was planning a trip to California."

Susan explained that when it became clear to her that Ben’s death was not being properly investigated by the OHF or the police, she began her own investigation. She began inviting Ben’s teammates and their parents to her home to find out what had happened at the camp.

The Teagues were told that in September 2018, during a team building event at the camp in Ben's first year with the Rangers, Ben was one of the rookie players who was directed by the team's senior players to strip naked and try to avoid being "tagged."

Ben was the last player caught and for that, won rookie of the year on the team, according to Ben’s mom, Susan. She says she was told this by Rangers coach Mark Moro.

"Our story is a story about hockey culture because what we have been told time and time again is that team bonding is something that takes place through shared secrets," Susan told me. "After Ben’s death we had a number of boys tell us, 'What happens on the team stays on the team.'"

The mother of one of Ben's teammates told her that during the Rangers' team building event at the same YMCA camp in 2018, her son passed out and collapsed in the woods. The mother says she never brought it up with the coaches.

"I think she worried her son would lose ice time," Susan said.

The Teagues say that they are determined to find justice and accountability.

I’ve talked with several lawyers not involved with this case about the Teagues' decision to go public with their story. The lawyers tell me that the family in sharing their story has given up some of its leverage.

"In a case like this, one of the ways you can maximize the amount you get in a settlement is by agreeing to sign a non-disclosure agreement so the defendants can avoid public scrutiny and pressure and more questions about other cases that might have come up over the years," one of the lawyers told me. "I suppose the family decided that telling their story would help them in some way, and that it is in the public good to make sure the public knows about stories like this."

'Our story is a story about hockey culture because what we have been told time and time again is that team bonding is something that takes place through shared secrets,' Susan Teague told W5.

Watch 'What Happened to Ben' in our video player at the top of this article, or on CTV W5's official YouTube channel Top Stories

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