USA Hockey increases penalty for on-ice slurs

USA Hockey announced Wednesday that it is increasing penalties for racial and derogatory slurs of any kind by way of a directive from the governing body’s president.

Anyone penalized under the rule that covers racial and derogatory slurs will now receive a match penalty, which comes with an automatic five-minute major and disqualification from the game. Additionally, offenders will be suspended until an investigation and hearing can be held by a governing USA Hockey affiliate or junior league. The governing affiliates and leagues will have 30 days to complete the investigation and hearing, and further discipline can be doled out at the discretion of those entities.

Previously, such incidents would come with an automatic game misconduct and additional one-game suspension, but member affiliates and leagues could issue further discipline at their discretion.

Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey, said in a press release that he made the decision to elevate the previous penalty as an increased deterrent.

“We continue to get reports of disturbing incidents of racial and other derogatory slurs, behavior which is reprehensible and has absolutely no place in our game, especially around our children,” he said. “For reasons I cannot explain or understand, the current penalty in place does not seem to be enough of a deterrent to stop this type of conduct.”

A USA Hockey spokesperson said that the move was not the result of a specific incident or increased reports of incidents. The spokesperson said that the organization does receive a number of reports of such incidents each year and this directive is aimed at getting those numbers “closer to zero.” A presidential directive as opposed to a board-reviewed rule change is rare, but has been used in the past, according to the spokesperson.

“The use of hateful language is a hurdle to creating a welcoming environment for families that want to be involved in our sport,” said USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher in a statement. “Eradicating this kind of behavior from our game is critical as we continue to make a positive impact on society through hockey.”

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