A comment which used the word ‘rapist’ allegedly triggered Saturday’s Atlantic university hockey brawl in Wolfville, says AUS executive director Phil Currie.
Currie told reporters at a Wednesday news conference that the alleged comment was directed at St. Francis Xavier forward Sam Studnicka and was something to the effect of, “you’re a little (expletive) rapist.”
Studnicka said in a statement Monday that he had been the target of an in-game derogatory comment related to a sexual assault survivor. There was no explanation in the statement of Studnicka’s connection to the unnamed sexual assault survivor. Studnicka did not identify the opposing player or specify what was said.
“That kind of language in general,” Currie later said in a statement, “can have a negative impact on victims of sexual assault everywhere.”
The brawl between the X-Men and the host Acadia Axemen broke out in front of the Acadia bench, with players from both teams leaving their benches to join in the melee, at 9:05 of the third period.
The AUS handed out automatic suspensions to 15 players and head coaches Brad Peddle of St. F.X. and Darren Burns of Acadia on Wednesday. Further sanctions stemming from the brawl are forthcoming as the AUS completes a secondary review process.
St. F.X. athletic director Leo MacPherson did not reply to a text message sent Wednesday asking for a comment.
Acadia University issued its own statement on Wednesday.
“Acadia acknowledges that one of our student-athletes made an inappropriate comment containing a particular word to a St. F.X. student-athlete,” the Acadia statement reads.
“The Acadia student-athlete admitted and took responsibility immediately after the game and extended an apology. This information was shared with AUS. Acadia disputes that the comment was made deliberately or that it was made with the intent and in the context in which it has been portrayed in mainstream and social media. Acadia’s student-athlete looks forward to the opportunity of providing this information to the review of the events currently being conducted by AUS.”
The Acadia statement also said that it is “working together” with St. F.X. “to address the events that have transpired and will be making a joint statement at an appropriate time in the future.”
In his statement, Studnicka said that he has dealt with comments directed toward him throughout his three-year AUS career in the AUS.
Currie said the AUS was aware two seasons ago of comments made between Acadia and St. F.X. But he added the universities told him, at the time, that issue had been resolved.
“Similar kind of comments were made in the season before last,” Currie said on Wednesday.
“I was made aware after the fact that an agreement had been reached between the institutions on an issue of comments made. We were satisfied at the time that the institutions and individuals involved were satisfied and the student-athletes were fine with the things that transpired at that time.”
In its statement, Acadia University denied that the on-ice issue has been on-going.
“Two years ago, St. F.X. brought to Acadia’s attention that it believed inappropriate comments were made to a St. F.X. player on the ice,” the statement reads. “They were dealt with at that time and there have been no such incidents since then. Those earlier incidents occurred before the Acadia student-athlete involved in Saturday’s incident joined its hockey program.”
The statement also said “members of the Acadia community” have dealt with personal threats that “are a reaction to a narrative that simply is not true.”
“This public dialogue has had a particularly direct negative impact on two student-athletes, one on each campus, and their families, and we appreciate that both institutions are concerned for their well-being and are providing support,” the statement reads. “At Acadia, our focus at this time is to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and to participate fully in the AUS review underway. We are confident this review will reveal the facts surrounding Saturday evening’s incident.
“We are acutely aware of the importance of making every effort to eliminate sexual violence and re-victimization of survivors everywhere in our society. We believe our student-athletes, coaches, and every member of the Acadia community have an obligation to act as role models in our communities and this standard was not met on Saturday night.”
Automatic suspensions totalling 39 games were assessed to both teams on Wednesday and take effect immediately.
Five players and three coaches will be subject to the secondary review process.
Currie said more players could be interviewed. He added that the repercussions could be “severe.”
“It’s unfortunate that something like that is even possible in our locker rooms or within our teams in men’s hockey,” Currie said. “It’s very alarming.
“I don’t like the idea of chirping at all. Can we completely control the fact that players chirp on the ice? That would be an idealistic comment and I don’t think that’s practical. Can we work as an organization to address the egregious, repugnant type of comments? Absolutely. Can we take it out of our games? We can make every attempt to do that.
“Regardless of the sport, making comments like that, it’s not acceptable or appropriate. We will address it. To use the language that was used, not only in the issue around Studnicka, but just in general, it’s not who we are. It flies against all the missions of our institutions. These are institutions of higher learning and we need to be solid and strong on how we address it.”