Statement from Rodney Southam
I said something I wish I could take back. The four days since February 2 have been among the worst I have experienced in hockey and in my and my family's life — and it's because of something I said. For those who have followed this story, you know who Sam Studnicka of the StFX X-Men is but, until now, my name has not been part of the public conversation about last Saturday's hockey game in Wolfville between the Axemen and X-Men. Although many people already know who I am as a result of the StFX statement, with the support of my mother and father I have asked Acadia to allow me to tell my story.
I'm Rodney Southam of the Acadia Axemen. I'm 22 years old and I've been playing hockey since I was three. I grew up in Saskatoon and played all of my minor, major, and junior hockey in Western Canada. I was captain of the Kelowna Rockets my last two years in the Western Hockey League before coming to Acadia to begin my academic and Atlantic University Sport career in September of 2017. I love being at Acadia, love playing in the AUS, and love being closer to my grandparents here in Nova Scotia.
Here's more you need to know about me. When I was a junior hockey player and a minor, I was accused of sexual assault -- something I did not do. After more than a year of tremendous stress on me and my family, seemingly endless meetings with lawyers and dealing with the legal process, the allegations against me did not proceed. Unfortunately, I carry these allegations with me and they were well known in my hockey circles and in every game in which I played, my opponents used it to taunt or 'chirp' me while calling me a rapist. Almost every single day, to this day, I think about what I went through. 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. I do know I wish I could take that word back and I should have known better.
There are other things people should know. During Saturday's game, it was the usual, high intensity game against a highly-skilled team. With about twelve minutes remaining in the third period, Acadia took a penalty which stopped play. On the way back to our benches, I got tangled up with the Captain of the X-Men. While the linesman was trying to intervene, I was pushed through an open door and into the X-Men bench. While this was happening I turned around to see Sam spraying me up and down my back with a bottle of water as I was stuck between a player and a linesman. I then turned around and we started exchanging words back and forth. In the heat of the moment, I singled him out, saying "You look like a little ******* rapist." This is information I supplied to AUS Executive Director Phil Currie on Monday as part of what I understood to be a confidential investigation into the incidents. I was not prepared for the statements issued on Monday evening by StFX in the midst of an investigation and, even more so, the social media backlash that followed.
Immediately after my comments to Sam, I realized something more was happening because of the reaction from the team and surrounding coaches. 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. Because of my own experience, I fully understand why it was wrong.
What is important for everyone to know is that, until after Saturday's game, I was completely unaware of Sam's relationship to a sexual assault survivor. I grew up exclusively in Western Canada and never met Sam until my very first game in October of 2017 against the X-Men. In my year and a half at Acadia, we've had battles with StFX but nothing to do with comments around sexual violence. I've read in the StFX 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. As a result, I was completely unaware of the context in which my comments to Sam would be received.
Much of the media coverage has been on the violence that took place on the ice. How both teams conducted ourselves was a very poor example of who we are individually as student-athletes and the varsity hockey programs we're privileged to be part of. From my experience, I've learned that words are not an excuse for violence.
After StFX's statements, I had to shut down my personal social media accounts. The things being said about me and the threats made against me left me feeling confused and nervous. I don't know who these people are and, worse, I don't know where they are.
I had to call my mother and father to tell them what I did on Saturday night and I am fortunate my mother is now with me here in Nova Scotia. All hockey players have done things they're not proud of and in this case I take full responsibility for what I've said. However, I did not say anything related to a sexual assault survivor, did not know any of the background behind the reason for the X-Men team response, and have luckily been able to lean on support from my family, my team members, and Acadia.
In closing, I wish I could take back something I said. Most importantly, I realize I hurt Sam and his family. My family and I understand very well the impact that this has on families. My athletic director has already reached out to Sam's athletic director to arrange a time for me to, hopefully, go to Antigonish to meet with Sam face-to-face – this is important to me.