Hockey Nova Scotia sends memo hoping to snuff out chirping with racial slurs
HALIFAX -- Hockey Nova Scotia is reminding people about unacceptable language and behaviour at the rink.
"We have zero tolerance for discrimination in the game and our goal is really to make the game safe and welcoming for everyone," said Amy Walsh, Hockey Nova Scotia's executive director.
In a memo sent this week, the organization's risk management committee says there has been an upward trend in reports of verbal abuse -- both on and off the ice.
The memo reads in part: "Unfortunately, we have been receiving reports of on-ice insults involving race, religion and sexual orientation. Over the last several months, the Hockey Nova Scotia risk management committee has been dealing with serious allegations of verbal abuse including specific incidents that have involved racial slurs."
Hockey Nova Scotia says they expanded their risk management committee in the summer.
Since that time, there have been under a dozen incidents reported.
"The increase in reports is really showing that we have provided an environment that is safe and welcoming for individuals to come forward," Walsh said.
Sean McKenna, the hockey coach at Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth, says he often sees verbal abuse and racial slurs used.
"I've been coaching 14 years, I've been a part of minor hockey for 14 years, I played hockey. It's gone on as long as I remember," McKenna said. "I don't think it's any different than it's ever been, I think that when you throw social media into the twist and there's some stuff going on there, I think that it gets amplified. I can't honestly say that it's any worse, but you do try to manage it as a coach a whole heck of a lot better because it was never an acceptable thing, but it's less so now."
Dalhousie sociology professor Howard Ramos says there has been more awareness around chirping since the Don Cherry incident last year.
"There's nothing new about chirping and there's nothing new about using racial slurs in the chirping," Ramos said. "Some of the research that I've done in talking to people in hockey and multiculturalism in Halifax and across Canada has shown people who are visible minorities often do experience this when they're playing, unfortunately."
Ramos says there have been other incidents throughout history of players facing discrimination.
"But something's different in this moment," Ramos said. "It's amplified, it's become a national discussion and it's my hope that people will take this opportunity to really begin to have that conversation to change the tone of the game because it's really important to make sure everybody feels included in sport."