2 barred from youth hockey tournament after alleged slurTwo players from a Twin Cities-area youth hockey team were barred from further participation in a tournament in Cloquet this weekend after being overheard using a racial slur before a game Friday night.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
Two players from a Twin Cities-area youth hockey team were barred from further participation in a tournament in Cloquet this weekend after being overheard using a racial slur before a game Friday night.
Their opponent in the game, a team from Duluth, has an African-American player.
The two players suspended are from the Centennial Youth Hockey Association, which is based in Circle Pines and includes several northern Twin Cities suburbs. They played Duluth East on Friday night in the Bantam B Barn Burner tournament for boys ages 14-15.
“We will not tolerate that kind of behavior,” said Mick Maslowski, president of the Cloquet Hockey Association, which runs the tournament.
Chris LeLeux, who is coaching the Centennial team this weekend, concurred, saying the team accepted the decision of the tournament officials, and that the association will weigh internally whether any further discipline is needed. The remainder of the Centennial team was allowed to continue playing in the weekend-long event.
LeLeux said the incident happened before the game, as the teams were in warm-ups, and said he and other Centennial officials were unaware of what had happened until after the game when a Duluth coach notified him.
The game itself was clean, LeLeux said. Maslowski also said that tournament officials had determined that the slurs were not used during the course of the game.
After learning of what had happened, LeLeux said, he asked Duluth coaches if his team could go to the Duluth locker room to apologize — and they did.
Roshanda Smiley, the mother of the Duluth East player, said she learned about the incident from her son after the evening game at Pine Valley Arena.
She expressed frustration at a lack of communication from tournament officials on Friday night; concerned about the welfare of her family and to make sure the incident was documented, she called the Cloquet Police Department. Smiley said officers took a report, and she commended their response to the situation.
Maslowski said tournament officials gathered information after learning of the incident on Friday night and then met Saturday morning to discuss disciplinary action.
“From our standpoint, we won’t tolerate that in our building, so we took these measures,” Maslowski said.
Duluth East won Friday night’s game in overtime, Smiley said, and she and her son were looking forward to the remainder of the tournament.
“He’s going to keep on playing and keep on skating,” she said. “I think the best way to deal with anything that’s negative is to remain positive.”
Smiley said she would like to see some diversity education in youth hockey. Noting how proactive the sport has been about teaching kids about safe play, she said some of that same attention given to diversity education could be beneficial.
Centennial’s LeLeux said the two players involved did something “colossally stupid” and that they — and the rest of the team —have learned a lesson.
“Even the boys not involved, they definitely have an understanding” of what happened, and the magnitude of such language, he said.
Minnesota Hockey, which oversees youth programs in the state, specifically addresses such incidents in its rules and regulations, which state that “racial or ethnic slurs and/or harassing conduct of any kind will not be tolerated.”