Hockey P.E.I. says it is repealing the indefinite suspension it gave to Keegan Mitchell, the junior hockey player who publicly criticized the league's handling of a racist on-ice incident and was subsequently barred from playing for violating the organization's social media rules.
"As an organization and as individuals, we need to take a stand against racism and help make the hockey environment a safe and welcoming place for everyone," the league wrote in a statement. "We commend Keegan for speaking up for what was right and shining a spotlight on our missteps around this tragic incident."
The incident took place during a Junior B game on Dec. 17 between the Sherwood Metros, Mitchell's team, and the Kensington Vipers. A player on the Vipers said an anti-Asian slur toward one of Mitchell’s teammates, neither of whom have been publicly identified.
The player who made the racist remark initially received a two-game suspension. The league, when rescinding Mitchell's punishment, extended the other player's suspension to five games.
"Within our existing rules, Hockey P.E.I. issued a suspension to the player who used the racist remark, however, this suspension was not proportionate to the act that was committed and has been increased to five games," the league said in a statement. "We acknowledge the initial error in judgment and express our deepest apologies to the victim."
Later in the game, Mitchell confronted the offending player, slashing him in the legs and earning a two-game suspension. Soon after, Mitchell was suspended indefinitely by the league for violating its social media policy by publicly criticizing officials and Hockey P.E.I. in a Jan. 5 Facebook post.
“For those of you who know me personally or through hockey, I am almost absolutely certain you recognize me as someone who always stands up for themselves, but more importantly for my friends and teammates,” Mitchell wrote. “If Hockey P.E.I. took these scenarios as seriously as they say they do, this player would have been suspended appropriately.”
Mitchell was adamant about continuing to be vocal in the intervening days since the suspension.
“I’m not just going to let this go,” Mitchell said. “If I don’t ever play hockey again, that’s fine by me, because I’m going to fight this until it’s right.”
Hockey P.E.I, when repealing his punishment, said it would be conducting a thorough review of its current guidelines and committed to re-examining its rules.
"Our board is committed to examining our rules and enforcement strategies and implementing strict and long-term updates to help prevent any similar situations from occurring in the future," the league said. "We can and will do better."