WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
A commentator has been fired after making a racist comment while calling a game between the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and the Langley Rivermen in the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL).
Bruce MacDonald, who was the colour commentator for Port Alberni radio station 93.3 The Peak's broadcast of the game, made a disparaging comment against 17-year-old Rivermen forward Owen Kim, who is of Asian descent.
The 5'7" player from North Vancouver was involved in an altercation with Bulldogs defenceman Logan Holm in the second period of the game.
"Oh, Kim … give it a break. Get on a ladder and talk to him," MacDonald is heard saying immediately after.
"Does he speak English? Maybe that's the problem."
MacDonald's comments drew an immediate reaction from play-by-play announcer Evan Hammond, who is heard saying "Now, come on! That's too far."
At the end of the period, MacDonald was removed from the broadcast by the Bulldogs and subsequently banned from future BCHL broadcasts. A colour commentator is someone who assists the main play-by-play announcer by providing levity and anecdotes — hence providing "colour" for the broadcast.
"Really, what this comes down to is a player safety issue," Jesse Adamson, BCHL communications manager, told CBC News. "When people think player safety, often they think suspensions to players for bad hits ... But off-the-ice stuff counts as well."
"We want to make sure that we send the message that treating one of our players like this is completely unacceptable."
Brad Bakken, governor of the Langley Rivermen, says Kim was upset when he heard about the comment after the game.
"It's not okay to be calling people certain things, or insinuating certain things," said Bakken.
Bakken adds the team is providing support for Kim and his family.
MacDonald issued a statement on Twitter on Saturday, saying he was "deeply sorry" for the hurt he had caused Kim, his family and others.
"No one should be made to feel that way and I take full responsibility for my racist words," he said in the statement.
Commentator terminated by employer
93.3 The Peak is managed by Pattison Media, which runs numerous radio and TV stations in Western Canada.
Rod Schween, president of the group, confirmed to CBC News that MacDonald had been fired Saturday morning as a result of his comments.
"Sometimes I think we think we've taken two steps forward, occasionally we take one step backwards," he said. "Hopefully we all can learn from an incident like this."
Schween says disparaging comments can have a huge impact on junior players who are at the developmental stage of their careers.
"Not only do we have an example to set to the young players on that team, we have a responsibility to our listeners and the public," he said. "To Mr. Kim and his family and to their hockey team, I extend our sincere apologies again."
It was unclear how long MacDonald had been calling Bulldogs games, with his statement saying the team had been a part of his life "since day one."
David Michaud, president of the Bulldogs, said MacDonald had been a "staple" at the club and a big draw for fans over the years, but his actions had consequences.
"As some of these issues [such as racism] have crept more prominently into the game lately, it's certainly led me to take pause and think of our our obligation and responsibility," he said. "To let something like that slide last night would have meant the other things we've done are just hollow or for show.
"I'm proud of how quickly and swiftly we acted on it. And I know our players know our stance and I hope the community knows our stance and appreciates it."
Friday's incident marks yet another instance of racism in the hockey world, with a wave of players coming out in recent weeks to report racist incidents on the ice.
In March, 16-year-old Zaya Morro said he was disappointed by a B.C. Hockey investigation into an incident where he was called a racial slur after a hit.