TSN hockey analyst Kevin Sawyer has apologized for comments he made on a Winnipeg Jets broadcast earlier this month about an alleged incident when he was an assistant coach with a junior team in 2005.
Prior to Tuesday’s Jets game in Carolina, Sawyer said he regretted his comments about the alleged incident involving the Minnesota Wild’s Jared Spurgeon – a former Spokane Chiefs defenceman when the broadcaster was an assistant coach with the Western Hockey League team.
“My comments were unprofessional, insensitive and may have sent the wrong message and for that, I want to sincerely apologize to you our viewers. I am truly sorry,” Sawyer said.
Tuesday marked the first time Sawyer addressed the issue publicly since the Jets-Wild broadcast on Jan. 4.
That day, Sawyer said, “Favourite story of Jared Spurgeon. He was a 15-year-old. Two months into the season we Saran-wrapped him to a pillar in the arena, about six feet up in the air … He was tiny. He looked like he was 12.”
Sawyer said Tuesday his comments about the alleged incident were inaccurate. He said the team had gathered to celebrate Spurgeon’s 16th birthday.
“I was in fact unaware and had nothing to do with the 16th birthday recognition until we sang happy birthday to Jared, who appeared happy in that moment,” Sawyer said.
“At that time, I did not view it as a negative, harmful or demeaning in any way. Rather, a celebration of an extremely popular and well-liked teammate.”
Sawyer said much has changed since 2005, both in hockey an with society as a whole.
“I understand times have changed a lot over the past 15 years and for the better,” Sawyer said. “This is certainly something I would never allow if I was coaching in the game today. I myself am a father of two teenage children and understand how important it is for our kids to feel safe when they are in the care of others.”
TSN said it had no comment beyond Sawyer’s statement on Tuesday night.
Sawyer’s comments from Jan. 4 made headlines last week when the Winnipeg Sun and Winnipeg Free Press ran columns about the broadcast.
In a statement to The Canadian Press last week, the WHL said it was reviewing the matter with the Chiefs.
Spurgeon was a rookie in the WHL in 2005.
He declined to comment to The Associated Press last week when asked about Sawyer’s comments.
The Chiefs’ head coach was former Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters, who resigned from his position with the NHL team in November amid allegations of racial slurs and physical abuse of players in previous jobs. Those allegations did not come from his time with the Chiefs.
Sawyer, a 45-year-old native of Christina Lake, B.C., was an NHL forward before becoming an assistant coach with the Chiefs in 2004.
Sawyer played a combined 110 games with St. Louis, Boston, Phoenix and Anaheim from 1995 to 2003 while also spending time in the American Hockey League and International Hockey League. Before turning pro, he played three seasons for the Chiefs.
In Calgary, Peters’ resignation came after former NHL player Akim Aliu tweeted that he had a racial slur directed his way by a former coach in 2009-10 while a member of the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs.
The 30-year-old Aliu, a player of colour, never referred to Peters by name, but did reference Calgary’s airport code “YYC” when writing about the alleged coach involved in the matter.
Later, former NHL defenceman Michal Jordan alleged Peters kicked him while the two were with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The NHL unveiled a code of conduct last month in the aftermath of the Peters story.