USA Hockey hired NHL goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck as its assistant director for hockey operations Wednesday, prompting outrage from some hockey fans who remember that he called Detroit Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley the N-word in 2003.
Pat Kelleher, USA Hockey’s executive director said in a written statement that “We are beyond thrilled to have John join our staff.”
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) May 23, 2018
“Through his exceptional playing career, what he has done since retiring and his history with USA Hockey, John is well positioned to lead a very important part of our organization and I know he is excited to get started.”
Vanbiesbrouck, who had been serving as general manager of the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL, said on the team’s website that he’s “humbled and honored” about taking a top position at the nation’s hockey governing body.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity USA Hockey has given me and the future of hockey in our country.”
He was hired to succeed Assistant Executive Director Jim Johannson, who passed away on Jan. 21 at the age of 53.
USA Hockey told me that the Daley incident “definitely was a topic of conversation in the interview process.” An official said that the incident “was a mistake which John acknowledged, apologized for and in the end has been an isolated incident.”
The official said Vanbeisbrouck is “in lock step with USA Hockey’s way forward that hockey is for everyone.”
But many hockey fans blasted Vanbiesbrouck’s hiring on social media.
So did y'all just expect us to pretend he didn't say the racial slur to Trevor Daley? Because if you couldn't tell, no one is doing that.
— Alicia 🇲🇽🇺🇸 (@tankbarzal) May 23, 2018
Great message you're sending to athletes of colour, here. 🙄
— Puck Face (@puckfacepod) May 23, 2018
John Vanbiesbrouck joins USA Hockey in executive role the same day the NFL attempts to stop the silent protests of NFL players. The Beezer is most recently known for dropping the “N” word at a player. Banner day 4 African Americans @C_Layts @robinthe403 https://t.co/s1v6wZf1JD
— Rajiv Mathur (@rajivmathur99) May 23, 2018
But the former goalie known as “Beezer” also had his supporters.
For something that happened 15 years ago that he apologized and resigned for? If you actually knew anything about him you would know that he’s a great person and that he’ll do a fantastic job in his new role and that something said 15 years ago doesn’t define who he is.
— Carly (@carlymarie_14) May 23, 2018
Vanbiesbrouck called Daley the N-word in 2003 in front of teammates when Daley was captain of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Vanbiesbrouck was the team’s coach and general manager.
The incident prompted the Ontario Hockey League to level its harshest fine ever – $50,000 – against the Greyhounds. Vanbiesbrouck resigned from his positions and sold his shares in the team.
“I think there was an understanding on our part that what occurred was damaging to us in terms of a league and what we try to be,” OHL Commissioner David Branch said in 2003. “We had to respond in a strong, clear fashion to make sure everyone understands we do not stand for this and this is not part of our value system.”
Vanbiesbrouck confirmed to The Toronto Star in 2003 that he used the slur against Daley and acknowledged he had used the N-word “more than once.”
“My comments were inappropriate and out of character, and I deeply regret my actions,” Vanbiesbrouck said in 2003.
The episode prompted Daley to temporarily quit the Greyhounds. He returned to the major junior team, saying “While I am deeply disturbed by the hurtful and careless comments that were directed at me, I am proud and honored to be a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.”
The incident didn’t hinder Daley’s hockey career. The Dallas Stars selected him in the second round of the 2002 NHL Draft – a year before the N-word incident. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion who has seen action for the Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Red Wings.
Ironically, the Greyhounds and the OHL found themselves dealing with another racial incident last month after Kitchener Rangers forward Givani Smith, who is black, received a death threat and was subjected to racial slurs via social media following the Rangers 4-3 win against the Soo.
A Michigan native, Vaniesbrouck played parts of 20 NHL seasons backstopping the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.
He’s a five-time NHL All-Star who won 374 games, the most by an American-born NHL goaltender. He won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender in 1986 as a member of the Rangers.
Vanbiesbrouck led the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche in 1996. He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
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