OHL won’t tolerate slurs on ice, commish says

Andreas Athanasiou of the London Knights.
MIKE HENSEN/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/QMI AGENCY

Andreas Athanasiou of the London Knights. MIKE HENSEN/THE LONDON FREE PRESS/QMI AGENCY

RYAN PYETTE AND JONATHAN SHER, The London Free Pres

, Last Updated: 9:58 PM ET

There's "zero tolerance" for racial slurs in the Ontario Hockey League, commissioner David Branch said Sunday, the issue flaring up with a complaint from a London Knight.

Forward Andreas Athanasiou said Guelph Storm defenceman Andrey Pedan uttered the slurs at him twice this month, the latest at the John Labatt Centre Friday.

"There's clearly zero tolerance against racial slurs," said Branch, who first heard about the allegation from a Free Press reporter.

The league can't address Anthanasiou's allegation until it receives a complaint from the London Knights.

Knights general manager and head coach Mark Hunter said he'd look into the matter and, depending upon what he found, could launch a complaint.

Pedan disputes Athanasiou's claim, according to a weekend statement from Storm general manager Mike Kelly.

"(Pedan) indicated that both players have been chirping each other about their playing abilities, draft status, etc., but there was no reference to race," Kelly said in an email to The Free Press.

Athanasiou said Pedan called him a phrase derogatory to people of African heritage, this only a few months after someone threw a banana on the same ice surface when black Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was making a shootout attempt in an NHL exhibition game.

"It was bad," said Athanasiou, who is a potential NHL first round pick this coming summer.

"It happened (last) Sunday, too (in Guelph). I didn't say anything to him. I was disappointed because he said it while the linesman was holding him (and nothing was done). That's not right."

Hunter agrees with Athanasiou, saying there's no place for slurs in hockey.

"It's not something that's allowed in our game. It's not allowed in society."

Hunter said Sunday he left a message for Athanasiou but was still waiting to hear back.

The most recent disputed incident occurred in the third period of the Knights' 3-1 victory Friday night at the John Labatt Centre, a Sportsnet-televised tilt featuring a teddy bear toss that collected an OHL record 9,851 stuffed toys for needy children.

Athanasiou, who is of Greek descent with a Mediterranean complexion, said he encountered racism before he joined the Knights.

"It happened to me growing up a couple of times (in minor hockey in the Greater Toronto Hockey League)," said the 17-year-old Athanasiou, who grew up in the GTA.

"Of course, I told my parents. They just told me it happens and you have to play through that stuff."

E-mail ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca or follow RyanatLFPress on Twitter.

E-mail jonathan.sher@sunmedia.ca, or follow JSheratLFPress on Twitter.


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