The NHL has determined Toronto Maple Leafs player Morgan Rielly did not direct a homophobic slur at a referee during a game between the Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
The senior executive vice-president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said officials conducted several interviews with participants in the game, including Rielly and referee Brad Meier, and everyone adamantly denied that Rielly had uttered the slur.
League officials also reviewed audio of the alleged incident and it supported their statements.
“The National Hockey League does not tolerate language or gestures that disparage anyone based upon their race, creed or sexual orientation,” said Campbell. “[The NHL] continues to work to ensure that our games are played in a welcoming atmosphere for all of our players, coaches, officials, and fans.
Rielly spoke to the media shortly after the decision was announced and said he was glad the situation played out as it did.
“I was 100 per cent confident that I did not use the word so we allowed the process to play out with the league. It was difficult at times to not make a statement because how strongly I felt about it and the fact that it is a very important issue.” said Rielly
He adds, “I’m very happy that it came out today that the word wasn’t used by me and I think its an opportunity for us as a team to realize there is really no place for slurs like in sport and in life.”
Toronto lost the game to the Lightning 6-2.
The NHL has acted on similar incidents in the past, suspending former Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw for a playoff game and fining him $5,000 after he used a gay slur in the penalty box during a first-round series with St. Louis in April 2016.
With files from Sportsnet.ca