It's well known that trash talk and taunts are a part of hockey, a strategic tactic to throw an opponent off his game.
But in some Calgary rinks, derogatory slurs and racist remarks have gotten so out of hand the top official for minor hockey is warning players and coaches there could be consequences.
“Over the past few years a disturbing trend has emerged regarding discriminatory slurs being overheard more frequently by officials,” reads a bulletin issued by Hockey Calgary’s executive director Kevin Kobelka earlier this week.
“Coaches need to educate their teams, but participants have to take responsibility and stop this discriminatory behaviour, or be prepared to face the consequences,” he continued.
According to Metro Calgary, on-ice discrimination last season resulted in the largest amount of indefinite suspensions in the city's minor leagues.
One hockey dad, Alex Canasa, told Metro last season his son of Filipino descent was told to "Sit down, Chinese boy," by a player of the same race on another team.
“I’ve been coaching about 13 years here in Calgary, and in the last five years or so it’s gotten much worse,” Scott Gailfus, director of Coach and Player Development with Calgary’s Westwood Warriors minor hockey association, told the Calgary Sun.
“It’s racial, but I don’t think it’s hateful in that the kids are actually racist — I think the kids get upset and they do what they can to tick the other guy off, and they don’t use their heads. But I don’t think there’s actual hate there,” he said, adding that most of the remarks he has heard have come from Caucasian kids leveling insults at African-Canadian or Asian-Canadian players.
Hockey Canada constitutes a discriminatory comment as, “any player or team official who engages in verbal taunts, insults or intimidation based on discriminatory grounds (race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, language.)"
Players caught by officials or coaches using these type of slurs are slapped with an indefinite suspension, reports CBC, usually from four to 12 games, as well as a disciplinary hearing.
“And when we only have 20 to 25 games in some of the leagues, that can be 25 to 50 per cent of your season,” Kobelka told CBC.
And while losing 50 per cent of the season may seem extreme, there are more severe punishments to come if Jill Cameron gets her way.
As director of game and conduct for Hockey Calgary, Cameron told Metro Calgary she plans to fight for lengthier suspensions this season.
“People aren’t learning their lesson,” Cameron said. “They’re not stopping the behaviour.”
Hockey Calgary is the governing body for all minor hockey in Calgary – players range in age from four to 21.
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