Hockey P.E.I. has another incident on its hands involving racial slurs, this time an anti-Asian remark aimed at a player at the Junior B level.
On Wednesday, Hockey P.E.I. issued a two-game suspension to a 19-year-old member of the Kensington Vipers.
It was for comments the player made to a member of the Sherwood Metros during a Dec. 17 game in Kensington.
“Because this issue is racial in nature and obviously severe… this case has moved right to the top,” Hockey P.E.I. executive director Connor Cameron told CBC News.
The incident was investigated by Hockey P.E.I.’s Discipline and Ethics Committee after the governing body received a written complaint from the victim on Dec. 18.
The investigation included interviews with that player and his coach, as well as referees and linesmen officiating at the Dec. 17 game. There was also a Jan. 3 interview by videoconference with the offending player and the team manager of the Kensington Vipers.
“The person who made the mistake was very remorseful — continues to be remorseful,” said Cameron. “That does not change the impact of his words on the victim.”
Tournament remarks still under investigation
The latest incident came just weeks after Hockey P.E.I. was asked to investigate racial incidents during a November tournament involving a young Black player from Nova Scotia.
Mark Connors, the player who was targeted by those remarks, has said he thinks Hockey P.E.I. is moving too slowly with its examination of what happened.
Hockey P.E.I. defends its process, saying it expects to receive a report later this month from a third-party independent investigator who has been looking into the matter.
“We quite quickly realized that Mark Connors deserved maybe more expertise in the investigation department than we could provide,” said Cameron. “So we turned that over to a third party… and we will address that report publicly once it comes to fruition.”
Criticism of handling
One player on the Sherwood Metros isn’t happy with how Hockey P.E.I. handled the incident involving his teammate at that game in Kensington.
Keegan Mitchell took matters into his own hands the night of the game — breaking his stick over the offending player’s leg — and earned himself an automatic two-game suspension.
“I would say it was bad… I take the consequences for that,” said Mitchell, who had earned 52 penalty minutes before the season was halted Dec. 17 due to COVID. “But when I look at the other guy’s suspension that’s the same as mine, it just kind of makes me sick.”
The player who was hit did not require medical treatment, according to Mitchell.
An automatic five-game suspension is now the standard penalty for racial slurs, under new rules from Hockey Canada. But it applies only when the offensive remarks are overheard by officials at the game. In the Kensington incident that wasn’t the case.
“Comparing the two penalties is hard,” said Cameron. “All I can say is I am confident that the committee conducted a thorough investigation and they applied the sanction that they saw fit.”
Mitchell took to social media to voice his concerns about Hockey P.E.I.’s decision. As a result of the post, Mitchell is now facing an indefinite suspension due to violating the social media code of conduct set out by the organization, according to Cameron.
Discipline for bullying, homophobia
Hockey P.E.I. has handed down other decisions in recent months involving racism and homophobia, Cameron pointed out. Shortly after the fall season began, three boys were disciplined for the online bullying of a young player. The ringleader in that case was suspended from hockey for a year.
Two other cases involving homophobic remarks have resulted in five-game suspensions, according to Cameron.
Sadly, it’s something I’ve become almost accustomed to over the years.– Player on Sherwood team
The Sherwood Metros player who was victimized issued a written statement to CBC News,. through his teammate Mitchell.
In part, it reads:
“This situation is unfortunate. Sadly, it’s something I’ve become almost accustomed to over the years. But I would also like to point out that not all hockey players should be painted with the same brush because it was actually my teammates and other hockey players that proved to me that this behaviour is most definitely not OK.
“I just hope no one else has to experience any discrimination regarding race — which may be way too much to ask for, but if they ever do, I hope people will stand up to them and hold them accountable.”