A Hockey P.E.I. committee has denied the appeals of five Island players who were suspended for 25 games following reports that they taunted another player in a racist manner.
The players were penalized in connection with the Mark Connors case. Connors is a Black player from Halifax who says the P.E.I. players directed repeated racial slurs at him — including the N-word — during a game where he was in the net as goalie at a Charlottetown tournament in November.
"The third-party appeals committee has heard their case and have denied their appeal and upheld the original decision of the Discipline and Ethics Committee," wrote Hockey P.E.I. in a letter to the Connors on Monday.
The investigator's original report said the players admitted to "chirping" Connors while he was tending goal — but they and their parents insist there was no supporting evidence that anything of a racist nature was said that day.
The investigator ultimately found Connor's account of events to be credible and in line with information provided by other sources.
All five of the minor hockey players from western P.E.I. involved in the incident appealed the decision.
Hotel investigation closed due to lack of info
The situation gained attention across the country and in the hockey world with former players and players such as Kevin Weekes and P.K. Subban posting support for Connors on their social media.
"It also made me realize that being a Black hockey player means having resiliency and toughness and the ability to persevere in ways others cannot," Mark Connors wrote for CBC, adding that only then did he feel Hockey P.E.I. took him seriously.
The organization had also initiated an investigation of another incident during the tournament, this time at a hotel in which Connors said another group of players approached him and said hockey was "a white man's sport."
Hockey P.E.I. said that investigation has been closed without conclusion, after the investigation failed to identify the players.
"Despite the investigators best efforts to approach the issue from different angles and speak to additional witnesses, he was still not able to discover any substantial new evidence to help identify specific individuals that may be involved in the incident," the letter from Hockey P.E.I. read.
It also said that Hockey P.E.I. has partnered with Sheppard Diversity Training, a consultant based in Nova Scotia, to provide training for staff and volunteers.
Bradley Sheppard's website describes his services as working to help combat anti-Black and systemic racism, which he approaches with experience as a Black Nova Scotian.
Speaking with CBC News Tuesday, the Connors family said they were pleased the decision on the rink incident was upheld, but were disappointed to hear that the hotel investigation had closed.
Mark's father, Wayne Connors, said he had hoped the team responsible would take accountability and launch an internal investigation.
The hotel investigation can be reopened if new information comes forward.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.