Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Canadian hockey league investigating claim that Mark Connors, 16, was subject of racial slurs at tournament

Mark Connors, a 16-year–old Black Canadian hockey player, says people directed racial slurs toward him during a youth tournament in November. Hockey PEI, the governing body of Prince Edward Island organized hockey, has launched an investigation into the alleged incident.

The slurs, Connors says, came during last month’s Falcons Early Bird Tournament. 

“Some of the younger kids in the stands were calling me a racial slur, one guy said Halifax has a n—– for a goalie,” Connors, a Nova Scotia native, told the Canadian Broadcasting Channel. “In the third period they kept on talking, saying n—–, n—–, n—–.”

That wasn’t the only racist language Connors said he heard during the tournament. Connors, a goaltender for the Halifax Hawks’ under-18 AA team, recalled people telling him, “‘You shouldn’t be playing hockey, this is a white man’s sport'” in a hotel where the teams were staying. 

Hockey PEI told the CBC its investigation may “take some time” because of its “complex nature.” Until the investigation is complete, however, Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey president Spiro Bokolas will not have his team playing in any Hockey PEI games. 

“We are disgusted by the racist actions of players and parents during a game that all have a right to enjoy,” Bokolas said. “I am sick to my stomach just thinking about it and will continue to follow up with Hockey PEI and Hockey Nova Scotia to see that this gets addressed appropriately.”

When Bokolas’ team returns to the ice, players will wear helmet decals featuring the words “Hawks Against Racism” and Connors’ No. 31 jersey number. 

Connors says he has been subject to racism in a hockey setting before. Three years ago, an opponent of Connors, then 12, called used a racial slur during a peewee game and was suspended for 45 games. 

Hockey Nova Scotia created a diversity and inclusion task force after that incident, and the organization’s executive director is “confident” the work it’s done since will bring a positive outcome to Connors and his family. 

“There has been a huge emphasis put on zero tolerance around maltreatment and I’m pretty confident in our Hockey Canada family and how this will be addressed,” Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Amy Walsh said. 

According to the CBC, Hockey PEI’s investigation could take “weeks” to complete. 

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