Fri Dec 03 11:55am EST
Andrew McCullum, a 16-year-old player for the NAPA Auto Parts team in the Peterborough Minor Hockey Association, got into an on-ice confrontation against an opponent from the Austin Trophies in a Nov. 15 game.
After they were sent to the penalty box, the chatter between the two remained heated.
That's when McCullum's opponent chirped a racial slur, calling him "the N-word."
The player was benched for part of the period as punishment but returned to the ice. McCullum's coach, Greg Walsh, was furious to see him return to the game, and at the lack of apology from the Trophies coach and player.
So he pulled his team off the ice, went to the locker room and remained there, claiming that it was meant to "protect" his player from other incidents.
And for that, Walsh has earned an indefinite suspension from the Ontario Minor Hockey Association.
According to the Hockey Canada rulebook, any official responsible for a team withdrawing from the ice and failing to return may be suspended for up to a year. Walsh is prevented from coaching until a hearing to determine the extent of his punishment for breaking that rule.
OMHA executive director Richard Ropchan said that while Walsh may not be suspended for an entire year, he expects the coach will suffer some penalty. "He has breached the regulations, and that's suspendable, so I don't know how long it's going to be."
The Austin Trophies player and his two coaches each were given three-day penalties stemming from the incident.
This is admittedly a complicated matter. The stand against intolerance is admirable; the rulebook, however, is clear. Civil disobedience in the face of racism should be commended; but we wonder if every team parent steadfastly supports the team's forfeiture?
The real culprit here? Not the kid. Not the coaches.
The OMHA claims it's merely following Hockey Canada's protocol on these matters, which harshly punishes a coach for pulling his team but slaps the wrist for a racial slur. Meanwhile, the massive Greater Toronto Hockey League took a hard stance this year against intolerance by targeting "racist and discriminatory language with indefinite suspensions for verbal taunts related to ethnicity, race, gender or sexual orientation."
The Star series, based on league penalty and suspension data, showed racist and discriminatory slurs have increased tenfold in the past three seasons. Those uttering the epithets typically received a three-game suspension.
"(The new enforcement model) is the breaking ground for a new game," said referee Carl Friday, one of only a handful of visible minority officials in the league and one of the panellists on Sunday.
"The important thing is that someone has recognized that these taunts are not part of the game and have taken action."
As other leagues, and Hockey Canada, should as well.
Stick tap to Justin Kendrick and "named" for the tip. Image via here.