Some hockey parents in Surrey are outraged and rallying around a coach who was terminated from the Surrey Minor Hockey Association over email.
Brian MacGillivray was with the SMHA for more than 30 years and, according to a parent Daily Hive spoke with, he was let go over an incident in February where he allegedly defended his players against apparent racial taunts from an opposing team.
Back in February, the rep team was playing in a minor hockey tournament in Coquitlam, and some of the 10-year-olds were allegedly called “monkey,” “banana,” and the N-word by numerous players on the opposing team. No recordings or videos of the game were shared with Daily Hive.
Daily Hive was told that the team coached by MacGillivray had 15 South Asian players.
According to a parent, who Daily Hive has agreed to keep anonymous, several of the young players were bawling, and MacGillivray protested to the on-ice officials and tournament safety officials, stating he didn’t feel his players could safely return to the ice.
After talking with other coaches and parents, the decision was made to leave the tournament. Because of that, MacGillivray was suspended for 30 days for leaving the ice, in accordance with BC Hockey rules.
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Parents rally around longtime coach
Almost immediately after MacGillivray’s suspension ended in late March, he received an email stating he was being released from the SMHA.
After word spread, parents and kids sent numerous letters of support to the hockey association, saying they wanted to meet with the people who made this decision.
“So they firstly ignored us, then they refuse the meeting saying, no, we don’t need to meet you. And that’s when we kind of got to say why, you know, why wouldn’t you want to meet a bunch of parents. They basically just started avoiding us,” says a parent who spoke with Daily Hive.
Daily Hive saw many of the letters sent to SMHA — written by both parents and players — praising MacGillivray for his dedication and saying he took an “ethical stance against racism and sacrificed his own fate with BC Hockey in-order to protect our kids.”
At least one player on the team also wrote a note to MacGillivray, calling the decision unfair and calling him a “great coach.”
Players and parents are now demanding a response from the Surrey Minor Hockey Association, saying this appears to be a targeted vendetta against MacGillivray.
MacGillivray calls for changes at Surrey Minor Hockey Association
In an interview with Daily Hive, MacGillivray — who has been coaching hockey in Surrey since 1989 — stressed he does not want this to be about him and is just concerned for his team and the message this decision sends to young boys in sport.
He says he does not regret taking his team off the ice at the tournament in Coquitlam after what he claims he saw on their faces.
“I looked at those kids, and they were scared, and hockey, sports is supposed to be fun, and enjoyable. And at that point, this was beyond hockey,” says MacGillivray. “They were scared. Am I supposed to tell a 10-year-old boy or a nine-year-old boy to go back on the ice when they’re scared? I’m not doing my job as a leader if I am not facilitating a safe, fun environment for a child.”
He explains some of the moms on the team broke down after someone from an opposing team basically told them that they were overreacting.
“Where it really hit me is when I walked out with two of the moms that I didn’t really know that well. And somebody from the other team says, ‘Oh, you guys are overreacting.’ They broke down and started crying. And they said, ‘You don’t know what it’s like to deal with racism.’ And that hit me hard.”
MacGillivray tells Daily Hive that he will be okay, but his first concern is for the kids, who may not understand why this is happening.
He hopes this spurs a conversation about racism in sports and possible conversations with the Surrey Minor Hockey Association.
“You have to have a leader that’s going to listen to everybody. I think, as a leader, that you have to make decisions that are best for the whole of the association that you’re running.”
Two local politicians are also now calling for more details about this situation.
As we review 2023 Canada Sport Policy, more reports of demoralizing culture in sports associations across Canada.
I have written to the CEO of BC Hockey on reported incidents at a local hockey tournament.@BCHockey_Source @sukhdhaliwal @SurreyMinor @lanapopham @PascaleStOnge_ pic.twitter.com/m6fb3C7qfS
— Parm Bains 🇨🇦 (@pbainsy) May 3, 2023
Daily Hive has reached out to the Surrey Minor Hockey Association and BC Hockey but has yet to hear a response.
The SMHA has told CBC News that MacGillivray was not let go over this incident but rather over reports players on his team were not given equal ice time.