Father hopes for positive resolution to Peterborough-area hockey racism incident
The first time Zachary Sukumaran was the victim of a racial slur in minor hockey the incident ended with the two teams holding a barbecue to mend fences.
He was 12 years old at the time and in his first year playing for the Millbrook Stars after previously playing minor hockey in Peterborough. He was called the 'N-word" by a player from Newcastle. The Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) suspended the player for the balance of the season but, more importantly, said Zachary's father Sanj Sukumaran, the Newcastle team extended an olive branch and the teams were brought together for a teachable moment for young players.
"Something good came out of it," said Sanj Sukumaran.
The OMHA is currently investigating another insensitive taunt made to Zachary, who is now 17 and captain of Millbrook's midget local league team, during a game Nov. 19 against Woodville at the Cavan Monaghan Community Centre. Zachary said he was told "Go back to where you came from you (expletive deleted) immigrant" following some physical contact between the players off a faceoff. Sukumaran was born in Canada.
Regardless of what the OMHA does, Sanj Sukumaran said he'd like a similar healing moment to occur between the teams as happened five years ago.
While there has been discussion between the Millbrook and Woodville OMHA reps, Sukumaran says neither he or Zachary have been contacted by anyone from the Woodville Minor Hockey executive. He said he has received calls from people in Woodville offering support.
"We would really like to reach out to Woodville at some point in time," Sanj said, "and see if we can come to a common resolution we can present to the OMHA regarding how these things are handled. We think it would really help Woodville to save some face and gain some credibility back for themselves.
"We'd like to see if the boys can resolve this and if this boy can find a positive out of this rather than go down this negative road," he said. "We've made it known we're willing to do that. Our goal would be to see some reconciliation between the two boys."
The OMHA sent an investigator to Millbrook on Nov. 24 to interview Stars players and also received written statements from two timekeepers who heard the verbal exchange, said Sukumaran.
The Examiner has received no response from a Friday request to the OMHA for an update on the investigation.