A Nelson junior hockey coach accused a visiting Kamloops player of racially taunting one of his team members during a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League game Saturday.
After the Leafs’ 4-2 win over the Kamloops Storm, assistant coach Adam DiBella was furious with what he said had been insensitive remarks toward a player throughout the game.
“Sometimes winning a game is more than just two points,” said DiBella.
“When there is awful, racial language being directed toward our bench from their players … it just makes you want to get the win even more. Quite honestly, there’s not a lot of place, not even in the game but in society, for anything like that.”
DiBella declined to name the players involved. He said he complained to the officiating crew during the game, but nothing came of it.
“I don’t blame the refs one bit,” he said. “They told me they’d look out for it, but they can’t make a call they didn’t hear.”
Storm head coach Steve Gainey said he heard nothing from the officials and thought there may have been a misunderstanding.
“One of the things that came out was he said, ‘We’re back, baby’ and the kid took it as ‘We black, baby.’ So I think there’s a place where the kid might be a little sensitive and maybe had it happen in the past, which is understandable,” said Gainey.
“We looked at it on the bench right away as soon as it came up, because it is obviously something that we would take really seriously within our own organization. So that was the response we got and it was kind of the end of it on our end. … Nobody in our group, when I challenged the situation, said anything like that came out.”
Both DiBella and Gainey were tossed from the game late in the third period.
The next day, Gainey told Kamloops This Week that Leafs players surrounded the Storm’s bus with five cars after the game.
“There was just a lot of continued emotion carried forward from the game from them, in their excitement to win and our frustration in the loss, having gone through a real emotional game on the ice with the amount of drama that we’re talking about,” he said. “For it to carry off the ice was a challenging thing for our boys to deal with.”
Leafs head coach Mario DiBella told the Star his players did not surround the Storm’s bus and Gainey was not telling the truth.
“That’s a poor excuse for bad conduct by their coaching staff,” said DiBella.
Cole Wyatt scored twice, Shawn Campbell and Reid Wilson had singles and Anderson Violette made 18 saves for the Leafs (11-2-3), who won their 11th straight game.
Chris Thon scored twice for the Storm (4-12-1), who lost for the seventh consecutive contest. Goaltender Ethan Paulin-Hatch stopped 22 shots for Kamloops.
— With files from Kamloops This Week reporter Marty Hastings