In the hard-knuckle world of professional ice hockey, disagreements are traditionally settled with a manly punch-up. But the sport now faces the prospect of defending itself against charges of institutionalised anti-Semitism after a discrimination lawsuit was filed by one of its handful of Jewish players.
Jason Bailey, a 23-year-old signed by the Anaheim Ducks, one of the NHL's best-known sides, claims that he was taunted about his religion by coaches during training sessions. He says he was then given insufficient time on the ice during games, when he was unfairly substituted.
The complaint, filed at Orange County Superior Court this week, tells how Bailey was signed by the Ducks in 2008. Like most young professionals, he was sent to learn his trade with an affiliate minor league team, the Bakersfield Condos.
During training there, the lawsuit claims, Bailey was forced to "endure a barrage of anti-Semitic, offensive and degrading verbal attacks regarding his Jewish faith". When he complained, two of the coaches, Marty Raymond and Mark Pederson, were temporarily suspended.
Bailey, a forward who had failed to score for Bakersfield in 35 games, was then sold to another club. He is currently plying his trade at a minor league team in Canada, where he has also yet to score in 17 games.
"Based on his religion, he was blackballed," Bailey's lawyer, Keith Fink, claimed yesterday. "They wouldn't skate him. They wouldn't play him." He added that Mr Raymond and Mr Pederson had later written letters of apology, saying that the comments had been intended to create "a jovial moment". "These are virulent anti-Semitic comments. These aren't jokes," said Mr Fink.
He is seeking undisclosed damage. The Ducks declined to comment. The row may highlight the dearth of Jewish athletes at the top level of US sport. Only five of the NHL's 660 players are Jewish. In basketball, the NBA has three Jewish players out of a total of roughly 350.Reuse content