Hockey association abandons racist player investigation
St. Albert Minor Hockey Association abandons investigation after parents pull player out of hockey
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 08:45 pm
St. Albert Minor Hockey Association officials have ended a not-yet-completed investigation into the matter of a peewee player using derogatory language.
The 11-year-old goalie was pulled from minor hockey by his parents following a meeting with two league executives to discuss numerous allegations of directing racist and anti-Semitic comments towards teammates.
Dave Bell, league president, said the investigation was concluded after the child was removed from the roster.
“At that point, we were still going through the investigation process through the due diligence that we normally do and (the parents) decided to intercede,” he said. “It was their choice to remove their child from hockey for the balance of the year.”
The player was suspended Nov. 26 after two sets of parents filed complaints with the league after their sons were each targeted by their peewee team’s goalie.
The goalie allegedly called an 11-year-old defenceman a “f***ing Jew” while on a team outing to an Oil Kings’ game Nov. 23, later telling the player that Nazis killed Jews.
The Jewish player’s mother, who is also the team manager, said the goalie told her son to “go away” while at practice the following Sunday, later threatening to kill him if he didn’t comply.
That same goalie allegedly told an 11-year-old biracial forward earlier this month that his mother “should go back to Africa where she belongs.”
When determining what punishment should be handed to players, league policy allows officials to consult with a discipline committee – a separate body from the board of directors – which provides a recommendation for punishment.
Bell said the investigation did not reach this point, adding he could not comment on what punishment the player would have received from the league, as the investigation was not – and will not be – completed.
This goes against a recommendation from Hockey Alberta, the province’s governing body for minor hockey.
Mike Olesen, senior manager of operations and administration for Hockey Alberta, said he expects the investigation to be completed by the league.
“It’s a global matter and I think it goes beyond just dealing with (an) individual’s conduct. It’s about modifying behaviour in their whole association,” he said. “If something like this happens, they need to address it and make a statement about where they go as a local minor hockey association.”
He said it is primarily the responsibility of the league to manage the conduct of players, adding if the league saw fit, it could ban the child from the association. He said, however, this may not be the best approach.
“Any sanction is there, it’s meant to modify the players’ behaviour,” he said. “To just completely remove someone from membership altogether is only sending a message that we need to avoid the issue, depending on the nature of it.”
Bell did not give a definitive answer as to whether or not the goalie would be allowed back on the ice next season.
“There’s been no ban, from the league perspective, but we will have a conversation if (the parents) decided to re-institute their child next year,” he said.
He declined to comment on whether the league has had past issues with the player and said this kind of behaviour isn’t “rampant” in the league.
Education is key
Todd Jackson, senior manager of insurance and membership services with Hockey Canada, emphasized the importance of education to prevent incidents of discrimination.
“The education component is important and kids knowing that it’s not acceptable is important,” he said.
Hockey Canada developed the Respect in Sport program, which stems from the Speak Out program created by the organization in 1997.
“The Speak Out program has been so huge for us in reducing bullying, harassment and abuse in the game,” he said. “I have to believe that the education being there has been nothing but positive to help change the environment within the game.”
The Respect in Sport program is a one-hour online course aimed at ensuring a safe and fun environment for youth involved in minor hockey.
All parents involved in minor hockey in Alberta were required to complete the program by Dec. 1, at a cost of $12 per family, in order to participate in hockey.
Olesen said more than 95 per cent of the 90,000 minor hockey participants in the province have completed the programming.
Bell confirms that the parents of the accused player completed the Respect in Sport program.
Jackson said Hockey Canada’s role is mainly to develop tools and resources for adults with the expectation that they pass this information on to players, as opposed to getting involved directly with investigations.
“We try to give the adults in the game, the adults around the game, the tools and the educational information so they can go back and implement that information in their local jurisdictions,” he said. “We believe in the elimination of bullying, harassment (and) abuse in a hockey environment.”