Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Vanbiesbrouck quits after using racial slur

The Associated Press

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ontario - Former NHL goalie John Vanbiesbrouck quit as coach and general manager of a junior league hockey team Monday after using a racial slur to describe a black player.

"My comments were inappropriate and out of character and I deeply regret my actions," he said.

Vanbiesbrouck will keep his 25 percent ownership stake in the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, team spokesman Gino Cavallo said.

Greyhounds captain Trevor Daley quit the team and returned home to Toronto on Saturday after being told Vanbiesbrouck used the slur while talking to other players.

"I think it is very classless," said Carolina Hurricanes goalie Kevin Weekes, who is black. "It leads me to now wonder what he thought about me the whole time that I was in the (Florida) system. It makes you wonder."

Weekes and Vanbiesbrouck were teammates with the Panthers for part of one season before Weekes was traded to Vancouver.

"People ask: 'Why don't more minorities play hockey?' Well, what are you going to play for? Are you going to play just to get substandard treatment or be treated foolishly or unfairly," said Weekes, who knows Daley well and used to play hockey with his uncle.

Daley, a second-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars, plans to rejoin the Greyhounds in time for their game in Windsor on Thursday, said his agent, Hall of Famer Bobby Orr.

"I think he's going to go back," Orr said Monday. "He wants to play. ... He's been hurt badly, but he's a wonderful young man and he'll be fine."

Vanbiesbrouck confirmed using the slur, telling the Sault Star, "I used the n-word instead of calling him Trevor." Vanbiesbrouck acknowledged using it "more than once."

Orr said Vanbiesbrouck's resignation was not a condition of Daley's return.

OHL commissioner David Branch spoke with Daley and Vanbiesbrouck on Monday. The league is investigating and Branch would not speculate on the future of Vanbiesbrouck's ownership.

"John Vanbiesbrouck, to his credit, did not in any way shape or form attempt to justify what was said," Branch said.

Branch said a memo is posted in every locker room stating the league's policy on taunting, abuse and racial and ethnic slurs.

"That's very clear and understood," he said.

Vanbiesbrouck, who finished his 20-year NHL career last season with the New Jersey Devils, made the slur Friday night while visiting the home of players Mike Amodeo and Jeff Doyle after a 6-1 loss to Guelph.

The 39-year-old Vanbiesbrouck was born in Detroit and played junior hockey in Sault Ste. Marie. He said his use of the slur may have come from his upbringing.

"I told Trev this is an old wound with me," he told the Sault Star. "I grew up with it. I'm as sorry as anybody that it's stuck with me."

Associate coach Steve Harrison will coach the Greyhounds, who went 26-30-6-3 under Vanbiesbrouck and clinched a playoff berth Sunday.

Vanbiesbrouck won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender in 1986 with the New York Rangers. He purchased his stake in the Greyhounds two years ago while still playing in the NHL.

"I don't understand how you are going to play in New York City for 12 or 13 years and being a member as the New York Rangers, playing in Madison Square Garden, and have those sentiments, and have those feelings and thoughts," Weekes said. "Ironically, he ended up going to the Ice Hockey in Harlem (functions). What was he there for? Just to be there. It just shows me the high level of trash and not any class or any refinement. It's uncalled for."

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