Windsor Spitfres' Brandon DevlinTrash talking can never be eradicated from hockey, but it's possible one incident in the OHL might have caused the league to be more serious about what players say in the so-called heat of the moment.
Guelph Storm defender Andrey Pedan was called out publicly last month by London's Andreas Athanasiou, for alleged racial comments made during a game. The case was basically tossed for a lack of evidence with OHL vice-president Ted Baker explaining the game officials "did not hear anything of a derogatory nature. Therefore, we're not in a position to substantiate whether it did or did not happen."
It is interesting that almost immediately afterward, the league is dealing with a similar situation that its referees did write up. Unfortunately for young defenceman Brandon Devlin (Windsor Star: "If I could go back in time, I would. I was trying to stick up for my teammate, I wasn't trying to offend anyone") and his Windsor Spitfires, whatever he said during an on-ice altercation last Friday in Guelph did result in an ejection from the game and was reported by the referee, Ryan Carroll.
That means Devlin could be suspended under the league's diversity policy, which covers comments made about gender, race, colour, sexual orientation or nationality. From Jim Parker:
[Ontario Hockey League vice-president Ted] Baker said he has Carroll's report on the incident and it does not refer to which player the comment was addressed.
Baker did say the comment was not racially motivated.
"I can confirm it was not a racial comment," Baker said.
... If the league rules Devlin violated the team's diversity policy, he would face a minimum five-game suspension.That's the suspension handed to Plymouth's Jonas Fiedler back in 2004 after the Czech Republic-born Fiedler referred to Owen Sound's Stefan Ruzicka, who is from Slovakia, as a Euro.
Baker also said the league has reviewed the match penalty for slew footing given to Guelph's Scott Kosmachuk in Friday's game and said there would be no suspension. (Windsor Star)
If the Pedan-Athanasiou case led the league to focus more on what's said on the ice, so much the better. It's worth noting Baker told Parker the league has had a few such incidents crop up this season. It might have been only a matter of time before a player was caught saying something truly regrettable on the ice that would have resulted in bad publicity for both he and the league.
The moral of the story might be the proof of whether a player crossed the line verbally depends on what the official heard. Most reasonable people can accept that in organized sport, there's a lot of verbiage that flies back and forth that would not pass muster in another milieu, like an office. So be it. Athletes have to have thick skin, up to a point. And that point is where it could look like the league is insensitive toward diversity.
Suffice to say, the league will have to act fast. The Guelph Mercury ran an editorial chastising the OHL for how long it took to clear Pedan, but the league didn't deserve the flak. No one suffered any loss for the league letting it drag through the holiday season. Pedan wasn't sitting out games while awaiting a decision. Athanasiou and the London Knights made a formal complaint and then resumed living their lives.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).