Hockey commentator removed after remarks toward Eskasoni team, referee
'Discouraged and saddened that happened because there's really no place for this in hockey,' says chief
A Nova Scotia hockey team says a commentator has been relieved of his duties after a discriminatory remark suggesting bias toward First Nation players during a recent game.
The incident happened last Sunday during a game played at the Trenton Minor Sports Community Centre as part of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League.
In an action-packed third period, the visiting Eskasoni Junior Eagles scored twice to tie the game 2-2 against the Pictou County Scotians.
In the same period, the Scotians were handed seven penalties, while Eskasoni was given only one.
As fans listened to an online livestream, they heard a sports commentator suggest the penalties were unfair by asking "I wonder if he has a band card" — implying the referee was giving preferential treatment to the team based on the First Nation.
Eskasoni First Nation Chief Leroy Denny is an owner and president of the local team that formed about five years ago and includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous coaches and players.
"I was just shocked with the comment," said Denny.
Striving to be inclusive
"Discouraged and saddened that happened because there's really no place for this in hockey. As our team, we always push inclusiveness all the time."
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the Scotians team acknowledged that "culturally insensitive" remarks were made toward the referee and opposing team during Sunday's game and an investigation launched the following day.
They say the sports commentator has been relieved of his duties and will no longer be permitted to take part in further livestreams. CBC News reached out to the Scotians for comment, but they did not respond by deadline.
Denny, who acts as a hockey commentator both in English and Mi'kmaw, says being unbiased and using proper language is important.
He said the decision to remove the commentator was fair.
"They did their part and, you know, there's policies and I believe the [league] executive and also the team, I think they did the right thing to act on this," he said.
"We just want to play hockey. That's our focus, to win, to be competitive and for our players and fans to have fun and feel safe."
CBC News requested an interview with Hockey Nova Scotia, which is the governing body for all organized hockey in the province.
Spokesperson Garreth MacDonald issued a statement saying that words and actions matter.
"Whether it's on or off the ice, there is no place for discriminatory language in hockey," the statement reads.
"The [Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League] dealt with this matter promptly and firmly. We support their actions. Hockey Nova Scotia is committed to ensuring that rinks in our province are a safe and welcoming place for everyone."
Denny said his team, which won Sunday's game 3-2 in a shootout, will not be discouraged by what happened.
"We're just going to continue and move forward and hope in the future that these types of things don't happen again."