WHEELING - The ECHL has spoken loud, and it has spoken clear: there's no room in the game of hockey for racism.
That was the word late Wednesday afternoon from the league, which suspended Wheeling Nailers forward Keven Veilleux 10 games for directing a slur toward South Carolina's Scooter Vaughan, who is African American, during Sunday's 5-0 Wheeling victory. The 23-year-old Veilleux also was fined an undisclosed amount.
''The suspension is a result of inappropriate comments made by Mr. Veilleux in and around the penalty boxes subsequent to a third-period altercation. The comments were racial in nature,'' the league said in a statement. ''The ECHL will not tolerate incidents of this nature as all players in the league shall be afforded a level of respect and right to function in a workplace free of racial intolerance.''
Veilleux will miss games against Florida tonight, Saturday and Monday, as well as those played against Bakersfield (Jan. 25), at Trenton (Jan. 26), vs. Cincinnati (Jan. 27), at Reading (Jan. 30), vs. Reading (Feb. 1), at Kalamazoo (Feb. 2) and vs. Gwinnett (Feb.7).
He's eligible to return Feb. 9 when the Nailers play host to Reading at WesBanco Arena.
''The ECHL will continue to hold all players responsible for their actions/comments regardless of previous events that may have taken place,'' the statement continued.
''It is the expectation and understanding of the ECHL that the Wheeling organization will undertake internal measures to provide training and education ... to the parties involved to further address and remedy the situation.''
ECHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Ernst spoke with Vaughan and Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery Sunday prior to their leaving the Wheeling arena, and interviewed Veilleux on Tuesday before announcing the league's findings.
Veilleux and Vaughan, a former Nailer, fought twice Sunday. The slur was used after the first altercation when the two were in their respective penalty boxes.
''During Sunday's game with the South Carolina Stingrays I used inappropriate language toward Scooter Vaughn,'' Veilleux said in a statement issued by the Nailers. ''I have contacted Scooter and apologized to him directly. I also want to apologize to the South Carolina Stingrays, to the Wheeling Nailers, to the Wheeling community and to all of our fans.
''I am responsible for my actions and am truly sorry. I promise that I will learn from this experience.''
Nailers alternate governor Tim Roberts said earlier this week the team's membership would not tolerate such behavior, and the parent Pittsburgh Penguins concurred with Wheeling suspending Veilleux indefinitely at the time.
''The Wheeling Nailers organization supports the actions taken by the league in this matter,'' the team statement continued. ''Wheeling Nailers management, staff and players will have no further comment on the incident.''
Under American Hockey League rules, Veilleux could be recalled to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during his suspension, but wouldn't be eligible to play until that league did its own independent investigation.