April 26, 2012
Racism in hockey exists on both sides of the borderLike Ward, Weekes touched by hate
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
BOSTON - An enraged Kevin Weekes revealed Thursday that he has felt the ignorant touch of racism in his current role as a broadcaster with Hockey Night in Canada, with some "despicable" losers on Twitter actually using the heinous "N-word" to describe him.
That's why he can sympathize with Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward, his childhood friend from Scarborough, Ont.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, still buoyed by the memory of the overtime goal he had just scored to knock the defending Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins out of the playoffs, a jubilant Ward was on the phone with Weekes discussing the on-ice thrill he had just experienced.
Suddenly, the conversation took a more sobering tone.
"Did you see some of the stuff on Twitter about me?" Ward asked Weekes. "It's so disappointing."
That's an understatement.
Within minutes of Ward living out a childhood dream -- scoring a Game 7 overtime goal -- Twitter was besieged with racial slurs slagging Ward, many using the "N-word." It seems these bitter fans, pissed that the Capitals foot-soldier forward had just beaten Tim Thomas for the win, decided that Ward's skin colour was to blame for the Bruins' elimination.
"Despicable, disheartening, disgusting," Weekes said.
The Bruins agreed, issuing the following statement Thursday.
"The Bruins are very disappointed by the racist comments that were made following the game last night. These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization."
Ward took the high road in various interviews Thursday, claiming the euphoria of scoring such an important goal would not be tarnished by the tweets of a few misguided fans.
It would be easy for those north of the border to point at these slurs as being just an "American thing." It also would be wrong.
First off, the rantings of a few nutbars should not be an indictment of all Bruins supporters or, for that matter, Bostonians in general. This is a town, after all, that has embraced David (Big Papi) Ortiz for the better part of a decade.
Secondly, to think this kind of thing doesn't happen in Canada would be quite ignorant.
Just ask Weekes.
In an emotional interview, Weekes admitted that he, too, has been a target of such Twitter abuse just like Ward.
"Let me put it in a Canadian perspective," Weekes told QMI Agency. "There are some Saturdays when I'm doing Hockey Night or we're doing our (After Hours) interview segment and I check Twitter to find stuff like that."
Do some messages contain the "N-word?"
"Oh ya," he replied, "And sometimes they do it indirectly, too."
Give us an example.
"I'll get (garabage) like 'What are you doing covering hockey? You should be covering basketball.' "
Weekes played hockey from the time he was a kid in Scarborough, chasing a tennis ball around the street like many of us did. He went on to have a respectable career as an NHL goaltender. His work at hockey schools, helping young players, is relentless. And those in charge of on-air talent at HNIC and the NHL Network think enough of his knowledge of the game to employ him.
So, why would people suggest he should be talking about hoops?
Because, like Ward, he is black.
We're not even sure that term is politically correct anymore, but we know Weekes won't take offence to it. Not like some of the other crap that has been sent his way.
Weekes' and Ward's grandparents were friends in Barbados. When the respective families moved to Scarborough, young Kevin went to school with Joel's brothers. Joel, who is younger than Weekes, ended up attending Kevin's hockey school.
On Wednesday afternoon, prior to Game 7 of the Bruins-Caps series, Kevin gave Joel some advice.
"I told him to be strong on the boards and to go to the dirty areas in front of the net," Weekes said. "I know his game."
Ward listened. And when a juicy Mike Knuble rebound came to him, Ward smacked it in.
"That's what's important." Weekes said. "That's what we should be talking about."
Instead, much of the post-series buzz has revolved around racial abuse.
The type of junk that occurs on both sides of the border.