Discriminatory slurs increasing in minor hockey

Second warning this season has gone out to coaches, players

Minor hockey refs in Northern Ontario have assessed 17 gross misconduct penalties for discriminatory slurs so far this season, the Northern Ontario Hockey Association reports. Postmedia File Photo Jean Levac / Ottawa Citizen

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Smack talk between opposing hockey players isn’t new. But what’s being said has become a major concern for the Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA).

The number of misconduct penalties for discriminatory slurs has more than quadrupled from a season ago, says NOHA executive director Jason Marchand.

Seventeen penalties have been dished out during the 2019-20 season, he reports, with two months of hockey still to go.

Marchand says a misconduct penalty is assessed to any player or team official who engages in verbal taunts, insults or intimidation based on discriminatory grounds, such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or language.

The details of each incident are then reported to the association’s president.

Marchand says the penalty is “indefinite suspension.

“Traditionally, it’s three or four games. But it’s gone up recently due to the significant increase of the amount of penalties.”

Marchand admits not every incident gets a hearing due to the limitations of the association’s volunteer base.

It has re-issued a warning to its members to inform coaches and players about the consequences of discriminatory slurs.

“We issued one in November, but obviously some people didn’t receive the memo,” Marchand says.

He says it’s disturbing that misconduct penalties for discriminatory slurs have become among the most common misconduct penalties reported during minor hockey games.

“It’s very concerning. We have to get the message out there that this type of behaviour on or off the ice isn’t acceptable and there will be consequences,” Marchand says. “We need to continue to send that strong message.

“I’ve been on calls with players facing suspension and their coaches, and generally the player is apologetic. However, what’s troubling is that sometimes they say they didn’t even realize what they said.”

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