Justin Bailey is reaching out to a Buffalo-area youth hockey player who was subjected to racial slurs and taunts during a game in January.
The Philadelphia Flyers forward said Tuesday he intends to contact Roshaun Brown-Hall, an 18-year-old black player on an Amherst Youth Hockey under-18 team in Western New York, to let him know that he shouldn't feel alone and shouldn't let an ugly incident sour him on hockey.
"I didn't have an outlet back in the day," said Bailey, who played in the Amherst youth program. "Hopefully, this never happens again and this kid plays. But if there's anything in hockey, school, anything that he's struggling with, I want to make sure he can pick up the phone and call someone who's been through most of the things that he'll probably go through in his hockey career and make sure I can help him and his family at, obviously, a difficult time."
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Bailey spoke as he was traveling from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League to Philadelphia to join the Flyers for their game against the Montreal Canadiens at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSP, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV).
Bailey said he was saddened when he learned about the incident during the game between Brown-Hall's team and a team from Cheektowaga, New York, on Jan. 20. Cheektowaga players were caught on video making monkey sounds and gestures toward Brown-Hall, and one player could be heard using a racial slur.
A Cheektowaga assistant coach and two players have been suspended by the hockey organization, which is investigating the incident. David Braunstein, a regional president of the New York State Amateur Hockey Association, has resigned amid the controversy, according to WKBW-TV in Buffalo.
When the incident made news last week, it brought back painful memories for Bailey, who is from Western New York and played three seasons for the Buffalo Sabres after they selected him in the second round (No. 52) of the 2013 NHL Draft.
"I'll never forget the first time somebody kind of made a comment about my race," the 23-year-old said. "Back then, it was just, like, so crazy to me that somebody would do that that I almost pretended that I didn't hear it."
Bailey recalled that when he played for a predominantly black youth team at a tournament in Toronto at age 12 or 13, someone erased his team's name from a blackboard and replaced it with a racial slur.
"I didn't understand that people were like that," he said.
In reaching out to Brown-Hall, Bailey hopes to send the message that hockey is inclusive.
"I want to make sure that people of different ethnicities, as a whole, aren't nervous to play hockey," Bailey said. "I don't think any kid should ever have to worry about going to the rink and some kid making a comment. It should be going out there, competing with your teammates and having fun at the end of the day. That's the point I'm trying to get across."
Bailey, in his first season with the Flyers, has no points in seven games this season, and eight points (five goals, three assists) in 59 NHL games.