Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw suspended for Game 5 for using slur

The NHL has suspended Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw for one game for his use of a homophobic slur after receiving a penalty in the third period of Game 4 of the team’s first-round series with the St. Louis Blues. He has also been fined $5,000 for his "inappropriate gesture" -- two middle fingers -- directed at the referee. The league also announced that Shaw will be required to undergo sensitivity training.

As a result of his suspension, Shaw will miss Thursday’s Game 5 with the Blackhawks facing elimination at the hands of the Blues, who lead the first round series 3-1.

NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell, who is responsible for ruling on abuse of officials and other such matters, issued the following statement along with the announcement of the supplemental discipline:

“While Mr. Shaw was apologetic and remorseful for both the offensive comments and the inappropriate gesture directed at the on-ice officials, he must be held accountable for his actions. The emotion of the moment cannot and will not be a mitigating factor for the conduct that is expected of an NHL player.”

This is believed to be the first suspension of a player for comments made on the ice since 2011.

Krys Barch, who was playing for the Florida Panthers at the time, was suspended for one game for making a joke with a racial context at Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban’s expense on the ice. 

Shaw issued a public apology, both through a written statement and during a press conference Wednesday.

“I am sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks that I made last night while in the penalty box,” Shaw said in his prepared statement. “When I got home and saw the video, it was evident that what I did was wrong, no matter the circumstances. I apologize to many people, including the gay and lesbian community, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Blackhawks fans and anyone else I may have offended. I know my words were hurtful and I will learn from my mistake."

The Blackhawks expressed their disappointment in Shaw’s actions in a statement and vowed to further educate the players to prevent incidents like these from happening again.

The league, which is a partner with the You Can Play Project, a non-profit organization that encourages inclusion and respect for all athletes regardless of sexual orientation that was co-founded by NHL director of player safety Patrick Burke, has taken a stronger stand on hate speech and abusive language by its players. There has probably not been a higher-profile instance than this previously, however.

You Can Play released the following statement after the announcement of the NHL's decision to suspend Shaw:

Given that Shaw will miss a playoff game and possibly the decisive one in the first-round series between the Blackhawks and Blues shows that the league takes the matter seriously.

Shaw embarrassed the league, his team and himself with his late-game antics Tuesday. His apology seemed genuine, but it can't erase what happened. The NHL really didn’t have a choice, having aligned themselves with organizations that promote equality and the fact that comments like the one Shaw made marginalized a segment of their fanbase even if they were not his intended target.

There are going to be some that see the punishment as too harsh and other not harsh enough, but the league did one of the most powerful things it can do under its rules. Taking a game away from Shaw, a crucial one, is a statement that the league will not tolerate such speech and that it will hold players accountable for their actions. Not only that, but the league’s desire to further the education process with mandatory sensitivity training shows that it has an interest in changing the behavior that brings those words to the surface.

The league doesn’t get everything right, but they did here.

Andrew Shaw has been suspended one game for using a homophobic slur. (USATSI)
Andrew Shaw has been suspended one game for using a homophobic slur. (USATSI)

CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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