Ex-NHL coach Marc Crawford under fire after hurling homophobic slur at referee

Multiple former NHL players including Brent Sopel, Patrick O’Sullivan and Sean Avery have detailed the physical and verbal abuse they faced under Crawford.

Former NHL coach Marc Crawford is making headlines again for all the wrong reasons. (Getty)
Former NHL coach Marc Crawford is making headlines again for all the wrong reasons. (Getty)

Marc Crawford has a history of controversy. In 2019, he faced allegations from NHL players regarding physical and verbal abuse. Now, Crawford, a former NHL and AHL coach of the year and Stanley Cup winner, is back in hot water after directing homophobic remarks toward a referee.

The incident, which was captured on television, occurred this week while Crawford was coaching the National League’s ZSC Lions against EHC Biel in Switzerland.

In the dying seconds of the game, Crawford began screaming at Finnish referee Mikko Kaukokari to check the clock as his ZSC Lions trailed by a goal. His rant quickly turned homophobic when he called Kaukokari a slur.

It’s the same homophobic slur former NHLer Ryan Getzlaf was punished for directing at an official during a 2017 game, earning him a $10,000 fine from the league. As Outsports, a major LGBTQ+ sport network, stated at the time, the slur "is very specifically anti-gay and sexist, and there’s no explaining your way around it. It says, very specifically, 'you perform oral sex on men so you are bad.'”

Crawford was hired to replace Rikard Grönborg as head coach of the ZSC Lions on December 28, 2022. Now, less than two months into his tenure, Crawford is facing an investigation into his actions.

Only a few seasons ago, Crawford made headlines when former NHL players Brent Sopel, Patrick O’Sullivan, Sean Avery, and Harold Druken spoke out about the physical and verbal abuse they’d experienced and witnessed at the hands of Crawford. Sopel stated that Crawford “kicked me, he choked me, he grabbed the back of my jersey and just pulling it back."

In his book, Breaking Away: A Harrowing True Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph, released in 2015, Patrick O’Sullivan outlined Crawford’s habit of kicking him, and other players on the bench. Sean Avery also claimed that Crawford had kicked him.

Druken, who played for Crawford between 1999 and 2003 with the Vancouver Canucks, also claimed to be kicked on the bench, and stated Crawford would call him names. “Being called a dumb Newfie or a stupid Newfie or he’s going to send me back on the boats in Newfoundland, that’s just as offensive to me as it is being called something that’s derogatory,” Druken said in 2019.

During his tenure with the Canucks, Crawford — alongside player Todd Bertuzzi and the Canucks organization — was named as a defendant in a lawsuit by Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore, who suffered three broken vertebrae and a broken jaw after Bertuzzi attacked Moore from behind on the ice. At the time, Crawford was heavily criticized by Avalanche players for allegedly laughing at the time of the incident.

“The worst thing about it is their coach is over there laughing about it and that just shows the class of that guy," said Avalanche defender Derek Morris of Crawford in 2004. Seeking $68 million in damages, the lawsuit came to an end in 2014 with all parties agreeing to a confidential settlement.

Now, Crawford is facing new allegations, and a subsequent investigation, which was launched into his actions after National League director Denis Vaucher said he saw and heard Crawford’s “discriminatory remarks” on television.

Crawford, who also coached the ZSC Lions from 2012 until 2016, has served as the head coach of five NHL franchises including the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, and Ottawa Senators. Last season Crawford was an associate coach for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The ZSC Lions currently sit third overall in the National League standings.

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