As suspended Niagara IceDogs top staff apologize, group text leaked


Published April 7, 2022 at 4:38 pm

Niagara IceDogs GM Joey Burke and coach Billy Burke, shown here during a game, apologized for a profanity-laced group text that was released, causing their indefinite suspension by the OHL. (Photo: Niagara IceDogs)

After an indefinite suspension and $150,000 fine from the Ontario Hockey League yesterday, Niagara IceDogs GM Joey Burke and coach Billy Burke issued an apology today (April 7).

Unfortunately for the pair, the March 6 WhatsApp conversation that caused the suspension was made public shortly after.

Because the team plays out of the Meridian Centre, both St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik and City CAO David Oakes expressed disappointment in the pair this morning.

It turned out to be a group chat between a number of IceDogs coaching employees and clearly someone else in the conversation took a screenshot that made its way not only to the OHL but also to a handful of the public.

The screenshot revealed 10 profanities – most of a general nature though three words were derogatory slurs for women and one was anti-gay.

It seems the Burkes were upset over the lack of coverage they received after a 4-0 victory and it just went off-the-rails from there.

Nonetheless, the Burkes issued a public apology today, saying, “We are devastated by the sanctions brought down upon us and the Niagara IceDogs by the Ontario Hockey League. Certain media outlets are taking liberties speculating on what was said and about whom.”

They continued to say they were, in fact, upset with what they perceived as a lack of coverage by the OHL’s media staff. “To be clear, we were venting in a private hockey staff WhatsApp group chat about the perceived lack of coverage from the league after a win.”

However, they quickly acknowledged their error in judgement. “Unfortunately, we did use profane language, but it was not racial in any sense, nor was it abusive or directed at any IceDogs staff member (male or female) or any players. Embarrassed by our text, we deleted the message right away and apologized directly to our female staff for a vulgar slang word that was used.”

They also indicated that they haven’t faced problems in the past. “It should also be noted that in the 14 years that we have worked for the team, we have never had a complaint brought against us for any inappropriate language or behaviour towards any staff or player.”

However, they added that as leaders in the community, they should be held to a higher standard.

“Although we are heartbroken, we understand that our positions within the team and the community should have held us to a higher moral standard and for that we are truly sorry,” the pair said. ”

We take great pride in the diverse makeup of our team and our alumni, and we have always strived to create a safe and respectful environment both inside the dressing room and the office as well.”

insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising