Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith, accused of delivering a sexist post-game putdown to a female radio reporter, said he was "fired up" after an emotional loss and meant no disrespect to women.
"There was no intent from my point. I respect everybody. I respect everybody's job," Keith told reporters at Rexall Place after a morning skate ahead of Wednesday's game against Edmonton.
"You don't differentiate [between] male and female reporters?" Keith was asked.
"No," he replied. "I've got [CSN-Chicago reporter] Tracey Myers here. I deal with her all the time. She's a great reporter."
Keith said he was still emotional after a 3-1 loss to the archrival Vancouver Canucks on Monday when he made the comments to Team 1040 reporter Karen Thomson in the team's locker-room.
"Sometimes, especially after a loss I can be fired up. I don't like to lose. I can be frustrated when I lose," said Keith. "Call me a sore loser, maybe."
In the second period of the Vancouver game, Keith swung his stick at Daniel Sedin as the Vancouver forward scored.
In the post-game scrum Keith took exception when Thomson suggested the slash could have been called a penalty.
"What did you see?" Keith said, challenging Thomson.
"It looked like maybe there was a penalty that went undetected. You seemed a bit frustrated," she replied.
"Oh, no," Keith said. "I don't think there was anything. I think he scored a nice goal. The ref was right there. That's what the ref saw. We should get you as a ref maybe, eh?"
Thomson then told Keith she couldn't skate, prompting his parting shot: "The first female referee. You can't play probably either, right? But you're thinking the game like you know it? OK, see ya."
Thomson moves on
Thomson, on Tuesday, echoed Keith's sentiment that his comments can't be divorced from the context.
"Hockey is an emotional game and things are often said in the heat of the moment. I think this is what happened last night. I've moved on," Thomson tweeted.
On Wednesday, Tracey Myers weighed in on Twitter: "Nice of Keith to give me the scrum shout-out but not necessary. We've always had a good, respectful working relationship."
Bloggers and Twitter users have been scorching Keith as either sexist or just plain classless while others say he is the victim of blinkered political correctness.
It also sparked a social media debate within the sportswriting community.
Some journalists said colleagues who sprang to Thomson's defence were in effect being sexist themselves. Locker-room friction is not uncommon between players and reporters, they said, so why do some feel the need to jump to Thomson's defence like she is some damsel in distress.
"Rushing to a female reporter's defence is more sexist than anything Duncan Keith did. They're not babies, they don't need your help," tweeted Edmonton Sun Oilers beat reporter Rob Tychkowski.
Vancouver Sun columnist Cam Cole tweeted that players, when pushed, are equal opportunity insulters:
"Who among us has not been told by a hockey player: 'What do you know about the game? Did you ever play?' tweeted Cole.
Not everyone agreed: "Don't tell me this isn't sexist. Expect an apology from Duncan Keith today," tweeted Calgary Sportsnet analyst Eric Francis.
No apology was forthcoming.
"For me I've moved on," said Keith.