TORONTO — The NHL says it has determined that Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly did not direct a homophobic slur at an official during Monday’s 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Television cameras picked up what sounded like a slur with 1:51 left to play in the second period as Rielly and Tampa Bay’s Yanni Gourde skated into Toronto’s defensive zone on a dump in.
The NHL launched an investigation into the alleged incident shortly after the game.
“The National Hockey League has determined that Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly did not direct a homophobic slur at referee Brad Meier during last night’s game with the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Arena,” Colin Campbell, the league’s executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, said in a statement Tuesday.
“League officials interviewed several of the participants in the game — including Rielly and Meier — and reviewed video of the alleged incident. All of those interviewed adamantly denied that Rielly uttered a slur and the audio supported their statements.
“The National Hockey League does not tolerate language or gestures that disparage anyone based on their race, creed or sexual orientation and continues to work to ensure that our games are played in a welcoming atmosphere for all of our players, coaches officials and fans.”
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, who released a statement two hours after the game in support of the league’s investigation, was set to hold at press conference with Rielly later Tuesday.
Reilly is second amongst NHL defencemen in scoring this season, registering 65 points (18 goals and 47 assists) in 69 games.
The 25-year-old Vancouver native was Toronto’s first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2012 draft.
The NHL has been vocal in its support of the LGBTQ community in recent years.
The NHL marked Hockey is For Everyone month in February, with the Leafs hosting a You Can Play awareness night on Feb. 24.
The team hosted 30 players from the Toronto Gay Hockey Association and sold You Can Play/Leafs-branded scarves with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to You Can Play. The group works to ensure the safety and inclusion of all in sports — including LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans.
Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was fined US$10,000, the maximum under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, when TV cameras recorded him appearing to shout an anti-gay slur in frustration with an official during the 2017 playoffs.
Montreal Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw, who was with Chicago at the time, was suspended one game and fined $5,000 for directing a homophobic slur toward an official during a Blackhawks’ playoff game in 2016.
And Toronto Blue Jays centre-fielder Kevin Pillar was suspended by the club for two games in 2017 for directing a homophobic slur toward Atlanta Braves pitcher Jason Motte.