Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

OHL: League will look into Pedan-Athanasiou tauntingThe response might not have been quick enough for the liking of some, but the Andrey Pedan-Andreas Athanasiou incident is wending its way into the Ontario Hockey League's hall of justice.

John Matisz reported tonight that it will investigate the incident after the London Knights made an official complaint. Athanasiou first raised the issue after a game on Dec. 16, saying Pedan, a New York Islanders prospect, made offensive comments both that night in a game five days earlier in Guelph,

From the sound of it, the calendar might turn to 2012 before all the evidence is gathered. At least it is going to happen, since there was a time when this might have left to die on the vine.

Athanasiou — who is of Greek descent — said Pedan insulted him with a Middle Eastern slur. Through Storm general manager Mike Kelly, Pedan has denied the claims

... Branch noted the investigation may take some time, as there are a number of necessary steps to be taken as well as a waiting game to be played.

"One of the challenges right now is that Pedan is trying out for Team Russia (at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship)," he said. "If he does make it, we won't address the situation until after the world juniors, and if he doesn't we'll have to see what his schedule is like, if he's going back to Russia or not (for the Christmas break)." (London Community News.)

A sticking point, although it honestly did not occur to me last Saturday, is that the league only said it would act once the Knights formally took it up on Athanasiou's behalf. Does that make it sound like it condones this sort of thing to a small extent?

The league asserts it has a zero tolerance policy for racial slurs. But it's a policy seemingly linked to slurs that give rise to official complaints to the league. It seems clear the league can tolerate alleged racial taunts that have only spurred unofficial complaints — even very prominent ones.

... In at least one of the alleged incidents, on-ice officials were nearby when this act was said to have taken place. It seems odd that the league wouldn't have quickly advised that it would explore this matter with these officials and communicated swiftly what their recollection was of the exchange. (Guelph Mercury)

It does not seem so odd within the context of Branch's league. It's not unheard of for 3-4 days to elapse between a player committing a suspendable offence and the league sanctioning him. And that's when Branch and vice-president Ted Baker typically have multiple camera angles of the play to pore over. Point being, they take the time to feel like they're not making a rash choice.

In this case, there is no video, just several individuals' recollections of what happened. There were also two entirely different officiating crews on those Dec. 12 and 16 Knights-Storm games, meaning up to eight officials might need to be give a recollection of events between the two players. Something clearly was said — Athanasiou had nothing to gain by making it up — but it's plausible that no penalty was called since an official might not have heard it clearly. Perhaps the focus was more on restraining a player.

Another question could be why racial taunting is under the same category as, say, elbowing an opponent in the head. That might have to change some day, but for now, it's the framework they have. The OHL and Canadian Hockey League aren't indifferent to player welfare; just today, they announced a partnership on a Respect In Sport program that will give team employees training in "recognizing the signs and symptoms of bullying, harassment and abuse."

Perhaps in time it will be handled differently. At some point, though, one has to abide that this is a business and a sports league and not a civics class.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).

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