Skip to content

Former Hound Trevor Daley applauds team for removing Vanbiesbrouck's retired number

'The next time I enter the Gardens, look up, and not have to relive one of the worst moments of my life eliminates a major source of anger and frustration'

Former Soo Greyhounds captain Trevor Daley broke his silence today, speaking out for the first time about John Vanbiesbrouck’s retired number being removed from the rafters of the GFL Memorial Gardens.

In a statement released by the Hockey Diversity Alliance, of which Daley is a part of, the former Hounds and NHL defenceman said the move “eliminates a major source of anger and frustration for both me and my family.”

When he was the coach and general manager of the Greyhounds in 2003, Vanbiesbrouck used a racial slur to describe Daley, who is Black.

Daley's full statement, which was posted on the X feed of the Hockey Diversity Alliance shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday, was as follows:

“Sault Ste. Marie has been home for me since I was drafted by the Greyhounds in 1999. I played my entire junior career in the Soo, met my wife in the Soo, and was proud to finish my major junior career as the captain of the Greyhounds. Sault Ste. Marie is the place where I started my family and we return ‘home’ to the Soo every summer. Hockey, for the most part, has given me amazing opportunities that I am so grateful for. The one very dark and racist moment of my hockey career is something that I had to relive each time I returned to the Gardens and looked up to the rafters. The next time I enter the Gardens, look up, and not have to relive one of the worst moments of my life eliminates a major source of anger and frustration for both me and my family. It will allow our family to focus on all the very great things that playing for the Greyhounds and in Sault Ste. Marie meant for me as a hockey player and a person.”

Just under a month after retiring Joe Thornton’s No. 19 and raising it to the rafters, the Soo Greyhounds unveiled redesigned banners of most of the previously retired numbers to the rafters.

Vanbiesbrouck’s No. 1 was not among them when the redesigned banners went up on Dec. 1.

Further comments have been extremely limited regarding the decision, including from Vanbiesbrouck and the team.

Attempts by SooToday to get comment from Vanbiesbrouck on the decision were unsuccessful.

In an email, USA Hockey’s senior director of communications, Dave Fischer, said the situation is “not something John cares to discuss.”

Vanbiesbrouck drew heavy criticism in the spring of 2003 while coach and general manager of the Greyhounds.

While at a billet family’s home, Vanbiesbrouck used a racial slur in front of some other players.

Vanbiesbrouck was also a part-owner of the team at the time.

Daley left the team after learning of the incident and Vanbiesbrouck eventually stepped down from his positions.

“I used the ‘N’ word instead of calling him Trevor,” Vanbiesbrouck said in a statement at the time of the incident. “I used it just not thinking.”

Vanbiesbrouck reportedly admitted to using the slur more than once.

The organization was ultimately fined $50,000 and Vanbiesbrouck eventually sold his 25 per cent stake in the team as well.

At the time, the fine was the stiffest penalty in league history, behind a $10,000 fine handed to the London Knights three seasons earlier.

"The topic and issue that had to be dealt with was the most sordid and concerning issue we've ever had," OHL commissioner David Branch said at the time, in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Daley returned to the team after Vanbiesbrouck stepped away from the organization.

In 2018, Vanbiesbrouck was hired by USA Hockey and is currently in the hockey operations department as assistant director, hockey operations.

At the time of his hiring, Vanbiesbrouck hadn’t spoken with Daley about the incident or apologized.

In an interview with The Athletic, Vanbiesbrouck said he wrote a letter to Daley’s mother Trudy, but “I don’t know if it ever got delivered.”

Prior to joining USA Hockey, Vanbiesbrouck spent time in broadcasting and worked games in which Daley played.

The former NHL goaltender told The Athletic that he didn’t feel it was right to “intrude” at the time.

Asked about the decision to remove the retired banner, Greyhounds president and governor Tim Lukenda responded this week with a written statement from the team.

“The Soo Greyhounds work hard to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our guests, players, former players and families,” the statement said. “As part of our updating of the retired jerseys on display in our arena, we have decided to discontinue the display of this particular jersey in our rafters. The jersey No. 1 remains retired and will not be worn by any other Greyhound in the future.”

Lukenda said he wouldn’t respond further to questions on the decision.

What's next?

If you would like to apply to become a Verified reader Verified Commenter, please fill out this form.

Brad Coccimiglio

About the Author: Brad Coccimiglio

A graduate of Loyalist College’s Sports Journalism program, Brad Coccimiglio’s work has appeared in The Hockey News as well as online at in addition to regular freelance work with SooToday before joining the team full time.
Read more