Former NHL off-ice officials file lawsuit against league after firings

Two former off-ice officials with the NHL have filed a lawsuit against the league alleging they were fired for "pretextual reasons" after they called out two ex-supervisors for racist behaviour.

David Walowiak and James Watkins, who worked at Tampa Bay Lightning games, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court Tampa Division on Monday.

The allegations have not been proven in court and the NHL did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Sportsnet.

Walowiak and Watkins say they were fired in late February 2020 -- almost two months after their supervisors Ron Brace and Pat DeLorenzo were terminated.

Walowiak and Watkins say they were fired for alleged involvement in a group message thread about DeLorenzo years earlier. Walowiak says the NHL refused to provide a copy of the message.

Watkins, who started working as an off-ice official in Tampa in 1998, and Walowiak, who began in 2005, say DeLorenzo repeatedly made racially offensive comments about African Americans.

The lawsuit says Brace was the permanent supervisor of all plaintiffs and DeLorenzo also was considered a supervisor as scoring systems manager.

Walowiak and Watkins allege Brace and the NHL did nothing to stop DeLorenzo's racist behaviour "for several years."

The lawsuit says DeLorenzo and Brace were fired after NHL vice president of human resources Patrice Distler and lawyer Kate Watson got involved.

Watkins says he was originally called by the pair to be informed Brace had made complaints about him. Watkins responded that the complaints were due to his own complaints of "DeLorenzo's racist behaviour and Brace's inaction."

Comments are turned off for this story.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.