The NHL might be on hiatus, but hockey’s problems with racism never seem to miss a shift. And Friday was an ugly day for it.
The New York Rangers did what was ostensibly a good thing, hosting a video chat with top prospect K’Andre Miller and the first 500 fans who logged in. Unfortunately, the online session became a target of “Zoombombing,” the recent trend in which trolls make their way into videoconferences and cause havoc.
In this case, the troll’s move was just posting the N-word, in all caps, repeatedly, as Miller answered fan questions. Miller never acknowledged the racist, so it was not clear if he was aware of what was happening in the chat window, but the Rangers and NHL did, hours later, issue statements condemning the incident.
“The person who committed this despicable act is in no way an NHL fan and is not welcome in the hockey community,” the league’s memorandum read.
While that’s a nice thing to want to believe, it’s also hard to believe. Maybe the person who posted the slurs was simply trying to cause trouble online, but the hockey world doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt here.
It was just this season that there was enough public backlash against Don Cherry to finally get him fired from Hockey Night In Canada.
It was only a couple of weeks after Cherry’s ouster that Bill Peters resigned — wasn’t fired, resigned — as coach of the Calgary Flames, following his admission that he used the N-word… in the locker room… to demean a player on his own team 10 years ago.
It was this very year, in January, that the AHL suspended Brandon Manning, a journeyman who saw time in the NHL this season with the Edmonton Oilers, for five games for using a racial slur on the ice, directed at Ontario Reign left wing Bokondji Imama.
And when Miller joins the Rangers next season — he signed his first pro contract last month — he will be teammates with defenseman Tony DeAngelo, who was suspended twice during the 2013-14 season for violating the Ontario Hockey League’s rules about abusive language, though exactly what he said has never been made public.
“Well said by both Stromer and Troubs,” DeAngelo wrote. “We are really happy to have (Miller) as part of the Ranger family. some idiot on social media won’t make a difference!”
That may be true, but there are still plenty of idiots in hockey off social media, and the NHL needs to do more than just issue statements to get them to go away for good.