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Canadian businessman creates rift within Ice Hockey Australia

A disgraced businessman who made his way to the top of ice hockey’s national governing body has sensationally quit, days before A Current Affair and The Age were due to expose his slippery financial past.

Grove Bennett, who left behind millions of dollars in debt when he fled to Melbourne from Canada in 2017, has been skating on thin ice for months.

Cracks have been getting bigger inside the winter sport’s local controlling authority, Ice Hockey Australia, over its newly-minted CEO and his access to the more than $2 million in its bank account.

Former Ice Hockey Australia chief executive Grove Bennett Junior is approached with questions. (Nine)

The self-described high-performance coach’s former Canadian business partner Steven Barclay said he almost lost everything after being caught in Bennett’s wake.

In 2014, Bennett and Barclay purchased a Canadian disability aid company, Aroga Technologies.

In a spin-off venture, Bennett peddled “quantum-infused” hologram patches, which claimed to help with a range of issues, from weight loss to sleep.

As bills mounted and Aroga Technologies defaulted on its loan, the Toronto-Dominion bank filed a lawsuit against Bennett, accusing him of syphoning money from the disability company into his hologram business.

The bank also accused Bennett of providing “false” and “misleading” information about his business’ financial affairs and using the loan to fund his and his wife’s lifestyle.

Grove Bennett Junior. (Nine)

“He basically started treating his company as his personal piggy bank,” Barclay told A Current Affair and The Age from his Vancouver home.

“I started to learn something was amiss when I couldn’t get even simple answers to accounting questions.”

With the bank hot on his heels, Bennett and his family packed their suitcases, wiped their social media accounts and bought a one-way ticket to Melbourne.

“He just vanished one day,” Barclay said.

“Nobody knew where he had gone, nobody could contact him.”

According to Canadian bankruptcy records, Bennett owed 62 creditors around $3.2 million, which he blamed on “business failure” and “financial mismanagement”.

Bennett racked up a $100,000 credit card bill and the tax office was after him for more than $1 million.

That does not include the debts owed by his business.

(Nine)

After setting up a new life in Patterson Lakes, Bennett – the son of a 1970s ice hockey star of the same name – embedded himself within Ice Hockey Australia and within a matter of two weeks, in September last year, he was appointed a board director and then president.

By March, Bennett created a new position for himself which did not previously exist: CEO.

Former treasurer Adrian Miller, who voted for Bennett’s initial board appointment, quit in protest.

“He individually rang myself and other directors to push the idea,” Miller said.

“It was not raised by anybody else on the board.”

Miller’s concerns about appointing a paid CEO without a recruitment process fell on deaf ears, in a scandal he described as “damaging” to the small winter sport.

“If he had disclosed [his past], absolutely, I would not have endorsed him, or voted for him at all,” Miller said.

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Sandi Logan, an ice hockey player of six decades, has lobbied the board to sack him.

“I’ve got serious reservations as a member, as do the other 5000 members of Ice Hockey Australia, about the couple hundred bucks I pay every year to the organisation,” Logan said.

“Where’s it going? Who’s using it? Who has access to it?”

While multiple sources familiar with board discussions told A Current Affair a salary for Bennett’s position as CEO was discussed, in an online post, Ice Hockey Australia denied money was ever paid.

Bennett and Ice Hockey Australia ignored repeated requests for comment.

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Krzysztof Stanowicz

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