SaltWire Network



If this is it for Keegan Mitchell’s hockey career, he’s OK with that. “At least I’m doing something right,” he said. Mitchell was indefinitely suspended by Hockey P.E.I. this week after he made a social media post calling out the league’s handling of racism. “On January 5th, Sherwood Metros player Keegan Mitchell, made a post on social media that was a direct violation of Hockey P.E.I.’s social media policy. This post was publicly critical of officials, Hockey P.E.I. and made reference to a Kensington Vipers player,” said a letter from Hockey P.E.I. sent to both Mitchell and his coach. “Hockey P.E.I. has been recently made aware that the Kensington Vipers are seeking legal council based on the social media post. Due to these two factors, the (discipline and ethics) committee deemed Keegan a member not in good standing and suspend him indefinitely.” The suspension includes all sanctioned Hockey P.E.I. activities. The issue comes from some fine-print details of the agreement players sign when they join the league, Mitchell said. “I wasn’t aware that they had that fine print in whatever we signed at the start of the year, that’s what it must have been in. … I don’t know if it’s a thing we’re supposed to be made aware of or not.” To Mitchell, the whole thing seems like an attempt to shut him up, he said. “The threat of the legal action for me speaking out on an event that truly did happen is kind of alarming.” But he’s not backing down. “I’m going to be standing my ground on this until the day I die, basically,” he said Jan. 7 in an interview with SaltWire Network. “This whole thing wasn’t about singling out the opposing player, nor is it trying to single out my teammate. It’s really all about Hockey P.E.I. trying to submit the right penalization for this scenario. But all this could have been prevented if they had just penalized the right player in the first place.” Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly, who heard about Mitchell’s suspension on Jan. 7, said he was incredibly disappointed. "Suspending Keegan indefinitely is not sending a good message, to me. He became an ally with that social media post and I commend the young man, and I'm calling on Hockey P.E.I. to look at that decision." On one hand, the player who apologized for making the comment should have been suspended for the full five games that the offence entails, even if the referee didn’t witness the incident, he said. “I don’t care about your bylaws and your rules. It’s embarrassing.” On the other hand, though, McNeilly doesn’t believe punishment is the real answer, he said. “There has to be more of an educational piece. I have to understand that this is being dealt with. And I’ve just lost a little bit of faith here at the moment in how we’re handling this situation.” McNeilly has recently been pushing for Premier Dennis King’s government to appoint a commissioner on systemic racism, an issue McNeilly has witnessed in sport. “I’ve seen (racism in sport) throughout the years, but it seems to be being used as an attack mechanism now. It seems to be used as, ‘This is the worst thing I can say or do to you, so I’m going to do it.’ ” For his part, Mitchell remains firm, in spite of his suspensions. “I’m going to continue to fight for my teammate and the other people who are being wronged by Hockey P.E.I., because I’m in it this far and I’m not willing to stop any time soon,” he said. SaltWire Network called Hockey Canada on Jan. 7 to ask about how it handles complaints of racism and bullying. SaltWire was directed to read the organization’s Bullying and Harassment Abuse Policies, and a representative from Hockey Canada said someone would contact Saltwire to answer specific questions. No one had called or emailed by deadline on Jan. 7. Hockey P.E.I. was also contacted on Jan. 6 but hadn’t responded by deadline on Jan. 7.