OHL suspends Niagara IceDogs coach and GM after investigation into WhatsApp conversation
League says the conduct was counter to its program emphasizing respect for women
The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) has indefinitely suspended the general manager and the head coach of the Niagara IceDogs, following an investigation into comments it found violated the league's policy on harassment, abuse and diversity.
OHL Commissioner David Branch said Wednesday that Joey Burke, who is also the team's governor, and head coach Billy Burke, both of whom are minority owners of the team that plays in St. Catharines, won't be able to apply to be reinstated until June 1, 2024.
They, along with the team, have also been fined a total of $150,000, the league said in a media release.
The league says the investigation into their conduct was launched after the OHL received transcripts of a March 6 conversation on WhatsApp.
The league did not provide any detail of what those transcripts contained, but said "it is the position of the league that their conduct is prejudicial to the welfare of the OHL as it violates the league's harassment and abuse/diversity policy."
The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OHL?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OHL</a> has announced findings of an investigation into the Niagara IceDogs Hockey Club. <a href="https://t.co/hqaWvQ2zWX">https://t.co/hqaWvQ2zWX</a> <a href="https://t.co/w2Jtrsf5FI">pic.twitter.com/w2Jtrsf5FI</a>—@OHLHockey
The OHL says the conduct also "runs counter to the OHL's Onside program which emphasizes the importance of demonstrating respect for women through actions and words."
A spokesperson for the IceDogs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If the Burkes apply to be reinstated in 2024, the league says its commissioner will then determine whether they've completed "counselling and education" to make sure no further violations against league policies will occur.