Two days after Utah Grizzlies forward Simon Ferguson used the “N-word” in a verbal altercation with Reign forward Chaz Johnson on Saturday, Reign coach Karl Taylor addressed the situation again in a team meeting prior to the team’s off-ice workout Monday.
Besides the vile and derogatory nature of the word itself, it’s an explosive situation for a few reasons.
To say Johnson lost his cool in the moment would be an understatement; he tried to leave the Reign bench and climb onto the Utah bench to retaliate against Ferguson, who was standing a few feet away from Johnson during the argument but then walked away after using the racial slur. Johnson had to be restrained by teammates and leave the game.
“To give me an opportunity to get back into the game, and line up with someone who just said that to me, I don’t think it would have been a fight,” Johnson said. “I think it would have been more than that, and probably my other type of sense level would have probably kicked in. Something probably would have happened that would have ended my hockey career. I think it was better to take myself out and let myself calm down.”
Neither Taylor nor any player I spoke to for the story (including Shawn Collymore, whose father is black), had heard the word used in a professional hockey game. As James McEwan said, “it’s tough to know what to do after that.”
The Reign’s enforcer did what he felt was his job. He told Ferguson they were going to fight in the second period, then punched the Utah forward even after Ferguson decided not to drop his gloves after being given what McEwan felt was fair warning.
It’s up to the ECHL to decide what to do next. Taylor, who has coached in the league since 2005, was not aware of a similar incident ever occurring during his time behind an ECHL bench. A Utah Grizzlies spokesperson said the league is investigating multiple incidents from the game. Any announcement of supplemental discipline should come before the Grizzlies’ next game, at home against Stockton on Wednesday.
Though the Grizzlies said Ferguson won’t comment while the league is investigating, Johnson said that he received a call from Ferguson on Sunday to apologize. Johnson also received a phone call from Reign president Justin Kemp — “just a show of support.”
McEwan said he’s known Ferguson for a few years. Both are British Columbia natives who honed their junior chops with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. Check out his comments in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.
I don’t often transcribe entire, long interviews word-for-word, but here were my questions for Johnson and his answers: