Update: IceDogs staff suspended by OHL out for more than two years


Published April 8, 2022 at 11:23 am

IceDogs Coach Billy Burke (show here during a game last October) and his brother General Manager Joey Burke were both suspended Wednesday by the OHL following an investigation into WhatsApp conversation between the team's coaching staff. (Photo: Niagara IceDogs)

There was some confusion among sports media when the suspension of Niagara IceDogs GM Joey Burke and coach Billy Burke was announced by the Ontario Hockey League on Wednesday (April 6).

While the OHL stated clearly that the Burkes would “have the opportunity to apply for reinstatement no sooner than June 1, 2024,” many in the hockey media interpreted it as this June, as in 2022.

The Burkes were suspended after the OHL received transcripts of a March 6, 2022 WhatsApp coaching group chat between the pair and other coaching staff that was ridden with profanities, three of them slurs against women, one an anti-gay comment.

After an investigation, Commissioner David Branch announced their suspension, as well as a $150,000 fine split between the Burkes and the team.

In their announcement, the OHL was quite clear in their intent. “Joey and Billy Burke will have the opportunity to apply for reinstatement no sooner than June 1, 2024 (boldface added). At that time, the Commissioner will assess whether they have successfully completed counselling and education to ensure that there will be no additional violations of League rules, policies, or expected conduct.”

The Burkes issued a joint apology yesterday (April 7) that did not seem to be well-received by the St. Catharines public. As well, since they play out of the Meridian Centre, both St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik and CAO David Oakes issued a joint release, saying they were “deeply disappointed” over the allegations.

Contents of the text would indicate the pair were upset when the OHL only showed one IceDogs goal after the team had won 4-0 in their nightly highlights video.

While the Burkes noted in their apology that they have not had a blemish on their record in 14 years with the team, they added, “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.”

An excerpt from the OHL statement issued
on April 6.

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