A youth hockey league canceled its playoffs this weekend as it continues to investigate a video from a January game that showed players from Cheektowaga repeatedly calling a black player on an opposing team a "monkey" and taunting him with monkey sounds and gestures.
In the incident captured on a video posted to YouTube, some players on the Cheektowaga Warriors 18-and-under team hurled the racist insults toward a 17-year-old player on a team from the Amherst Youth Hockey Association.
Nearly two months later, the teen's father wonders why there has been no announcement about any disciplinary actions.
As part of the racist taunting, some Cheektowaga players leaned over the boards while making monkey sounds and gestures as the teen skated by their bench, said Andrew McDonald, a parent of another player on the Amherst team who was in attendance.
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"It was one of those situations where you ask yourself, 'Am I really hearing what I'm hearing?' " said McDonald, who said he was standing next to the parent who recorded the video of the game.
Darren Brown-Hall, the father of the targeted player, said he doesn't understand what has taken league officials so long to review what happened.
The game took place Jan. 20 in the Northtown Center in Amherst in the Multiple Organization House League, which is part of the Western New York Amateur Hockey League. Brown-Hall said the coach of his son's team immediately reported the matter up the chain of command.
Brown-Hall, who was not at the game, said he assumed the matter would be dealt with since it was captured on video. Instead, he said he's heard nothing about potential sanctions or discipline.
"No one wants to be courageous and make the tough decisions and hold people accountable," Brown-Hall said.
[Watch the video of the incident on YouTube (Warning: explicit language)]
The two teams were slated to play against each other again on Saturday afternoon, but the league's playoffs were canceled Friday as officials say the matter continues to be investigated.
According to emails provided by Brown-Hall, the Western New York Amateur Hockey League began an investigation, but stopped when Patrick Gormley, president of Amherst Youth Hockey, took the issue to representatives of the New York State Amateur Hockey Association, an affiliate of USA Hockey.
David M. Braunstein, west section president of the state association, took over the investigation, according to a Feb. 8 email from Janice Cavaretta, executive director of the Western New York Amateur Hockey League.
Gormley declined to comment on Saturday, directing inquiries to representatives of the state association.
In an email Braunstein sent Brown-Hall on Thursday, Braunstein said he received the complaint around Feb. 25 "and immediately started an investigation."
"The incident is taken seriously by me and my staff," Braunstein wrote. "I am not finished with my investigation as I need to properly and fairly gather information and I am in the process of doing so."
Braunstein could not be reached for comment Saturday. Cavaretta also did not return multiple messages requesting comment. A phone message for the coach of the Cheektowaga team was not returned.
In her Feb. 8 email to Brown-Hall, Cavaretta wrote, in part, "The WNYAHL does not condone any actions that are hateful, hurtful or discriminatory in nature."
McDonald, the other Amherst parent, said it was pretty clear what the other players were doing, even for those watching from outside the glass. In addition to the video shot by another parent, there's also video taken from the rink's video system. Considering the availability of that video, McDonald said he's not sure how much of a formal investigation would be needed.
"The video is pretty clear-cut," he said.
Canceling the playoffs just ended up punishing the entire group of young people for the actions of a few, Brown-Hall said.
Brown-Hall, who works as chief of staff in Buffalo Public Schools, said he ideally would like to see the Cheektowaga team face some sort of sanctions and for them to issue a formal apology. He said he acknowledges the entire Cheektowaga organization is not to blame, but that there are some players who need to be held accountable for their actions.
He also thinks the organizations needs to establish standard procedures for conducting this type of investigation, and he would like to know if the league will mandate any type of training moving forward.
To date, no state hockey officials who are conducting the investigation have spoken to Brown-Hall's son or any of his son's teammates, he said.