BY GEORGE RICHARDS
The agent for Florida Panthers forward Krys Barch said his client has been talking to the NHL player's association regarding his ejection from Saturday night's game for an alleged racial slur but had yet to talk to the league.
Scott Norton, who has known Barch since he was a 15-year-old junior player in Canada, said that Barch is “upset and concerned for his family.” He added the comment directed toward Montreal's P.K. Subban from the Panthers bench was misconstrued and “didn't have any racial undertones nor was a slur. It may have been a misunderstanding or taken out of context” by linesman Darren Gibbs.
A league official told The Miami Herald on Saturday that Barch was ejected for using racially charged language.
Barch was given a game misconduct late in the first intermission after Gibbs heard Barch yell something at Subban as he was skating off the ice after fighting Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Both Subban and Gudbranson were hit with two penalties for slashing and roughing at the end of the first period.
Video replays show Gibbs standing at center ice between the two benches. As Subban skates by, Gibbs turns around and skates right to Barch at the bench.
“Krys' commentary to me is that he did say something,'' Norton said. “At the end of the day, we're confident there will be no further punishment and he will be cleared of wrong doing and his name will be cleared. Krys is a family man with kids, his whole family is in Canada and are hearing this everywhere. It's tough on all of them.
“He hopes there is an understanding that there was no ill intent on his part. It was a misunderstanding. He wants his record to be clean when all this is over.''
Norton said it his his understanding that Gibbs reported the incident to the head official and a game misconduct was given late, apparently after the officials conferred with someone “outside the arena for a rule interpretation.''
NHL.com reported Sunday that NHL Senior Executive Vice President Colin Campbell is investigating “the details of the penalty.'' Campbell is a former coach of the Rangers and is the father of former Panthers winger Gregory Campbell. Norton didn't know whether Barch would talk to Campbell over the phone or would have a face-to-face meeting.
“Personally I didn’t hear anything,'' Subban said after the game. “I don’t even know what happened, really. A couple of guys on the ice told me that something was said. I don’t know what was said, I didn’t hear it. As far as I’m concerned it’s really out of my hands, so I don’t really know too much about it.”
Teammate Erik Cole said the comment may have been made about Subban's Jamaican-born parents.
The Panthers have been very quiet on the subject, with coach Kevin Dineen saying after the game that Barch was “broken up” about the allegations and that it was now a league matter.
Owner Cliff Viner told The Miami Herald when informed why Barch was ejected that “you play hard, you fight hard. But that's not part of any competition.''
Panthers center Shawn Matthias didn't want to talk about the situation, but felt he needed to stand up for his teammate not long after Florida's 3-2 win on Saturday. Kris Versteeg said it's “stupid stuff is what it comes down to, just blown up. .-.-. He's a good guy who means no harm.''
Others declined comment on the matter. Barch's stall, which sits next to Versteeg, was empty on Saturday although his name plate was still up and he remains with the team.
“I'm not sure what happened,'' Matthias said. “You never want to see that, but I know [Barch] and I don't think he's the kind of guy who would do something of that nature.''
-- The Panthers have had some of their largest crowds in franchise history when the Montreal Candiens come to town, with Saturday's announced attendance of 20,098 was the second-largest of the season – and the week. The Panthers had three straight games with more than 20,000 for the first time in franchise history.
A franchise-record 20,741 attended a Canadiens game on Dec. 29, 2008. Still, team president Michael Yormark tweeted before the game that he “heard the fans” and this would be the final New Year's Eve game against the Canadiens.
Florida has played its past three New Year's Eve games against Montreal.
Dineen said beforehand that he didn't mind all the visiting fans in the arena as it made for a festive atmosphere. Montreal will be back in Sunrise on Feb. 26 and will visit three times each season starting in 2012-13 as the Panthers and Canadiens are in the same division/conference.
“We invite all the great people of Montreal to come on down for a game,'' Dineen said. “It may be cheaper to get a plane ticket and a ticket here than it is to get a game ticket for the Canadiens. Rivalries happen and we look at Tampa as our natural rival. But the more you see a team, the more a rivalry will build. I think it will be enjoyable for years to come.''
-- The Panthers will practice at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs on Monday at 10:30 a.m. The workout is open to the public.