Racism not prevalent in WHL, players say
VANCOUVER — Evander Kane admits it surprised him.
The Western Hockey League suspended Kootenay Ice defenceman James Martin for three games last Tuesday for an alleged racial comment made toward Saskatoon Blades forward Josh Nicholls in a Feb. 21 game.
Kane, a Vancouver Giants winger who is black, believes it’s a rare occurrence in the league.
“To be honest, I haven’t had anything said to me in the WHL,” said Kane, 17. “I think everybody in the league knows what’s acceptable and what’s not. I think it can definitely happen when people don’t understand, and the league has shown that it will deal with that.
“There is a line. There are definitely things that you say on the ice to somebody that you’d never say off the ice to somebody. We understand that. We all understand what happens on the ice, stays on the ice. I’d also like to think that we all understand that going after a guy’s race isn’t acceptable.”
Kane wouldn’t get into what’s generally permitted, but the rule of thumb tends to be that you can verbally go after an opponent’s skills, or, more accurately, lack of skills. And there are assorted stories about players reading up on rivals’ biographies, to get a feel for their off-ice hobbies and such.
Kane would say that if a teammate used a racial comment to stir up an opponent, it would be met with harsh criticism in Giants’ dressing room.
“I’m sure guys on our team wouldn’t be happy with it,” said Kane, a Vancouver native who could be a top-five pick in this year’s NHL entry draft. “It’s not accepted and I think everybody understands it.”
Seattle Thunderbirds winger Prab Rai, who is Indo-Canadian, concurred with Kane’s comments, insisting, “I’ve never had anything said to me and we’ve got a pretty diverse team and I’ve never heard of anything being said.”
For their part, the Ice have denied that Martin, 18, made such a comment. Coach Mark Holick told the Kootenay News-Advertiser: “I didn’t hear anything. I talked to (Martin) about it and he said he didn’t say it.”
WHL vice-president Richard Doerksen said that he had enough evidence to go forward with the suspension. On the play in question, Martin and Saskatoon forward Darian Dziuzynski were assessed coincidental roughing minors, and Martin was also given a game misconduct.
The referee’s report, submitted by game officials Ryan Agar and Jon Stephenson, pointed to a racial slur for the game misconduct, and Nicholls, 16, whose mother is Filipino, corroborated the incident to the StarPhoenix.