Lightning reacts to report of homophobic slur

Jon Cooper: 'I was glad the way it turned out."
Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly speaks during a press conference with general manager Kyle Dubas Tuesday in Toronto, as they address an NHL investigation into an alleged slur used during an NHL hockey game the night before against the Lightning. [Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP]
Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly speaks during a press conference with general manager Kyle Dubas Tuesday in Toronto, as they address an NHL investigation into an alleged slur used during an NHL hockey game the night before against the Lightning. [Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP]
Published March 13
Updated March 13

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he was surprised to hear reports that a homophobic slur was used during Monday’s game in Toronto.

“There’s a little bit of shock,” he said. “I found it kind of odd that it came up, but there’s always that panic of, ‘Oh my gosh, what happened?’ ”

The NHL investigated the allegation that Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly shouted a homophobic slur at referee Brad Meier and concluded that he didn’t after interviewing Rielly and Meier, and reviewing all available audio and video from the TV broadcasts by Fox Sports and Canada’s Sportsnet.

Rielly denied using a slur, and Meier said he didn’t hear one from Rielly or anyone else.

The accusation arose from audio of a sequence in which Rielly and the Lightning’s Yanni Gourde were chasing a dumped puck in the Lightning defensive zone. Gourdesaid he didn’t hear anything.

“No I didn’t, honestly, no idea,” Gourde said. “I watched it afterward, and I had no idea what was happening. Honestly, there’s too much going on, but that’s not something I’d expect to hear.”

Cooper said he doesn’t hear those kinds of slurs on the bench but he’s not on the ice, where tensions run differently.

“I was glad the way it turned out,” he said. “Being in that game, I didn’t feel there was any situation that calls for that type of behavior, ever.”

In a news conference Tuesday, Rielly rejected any use of the word in question.

“I didn’t hear it,” he said. “I know I didn’t use that word and I didn’t hear it during play. I did listen to the video.

“I’m not sure if it came from the ice or not. Either way, that word has no place in this building. This is a team that wants to be involved in the community and with the movement (the LGBTQ hockey community).”

The issue may have arisen from someone yelling about ragging the puck, hockey parlance for holding on to the puck to kill time.

Times wires were used in this report. Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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