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Published March 15 2012

Attack follows reported racial slur by Force player

FARGO – Police in Urbandale, Iowa are investigating the assault of a Fargo Force player last week, which may have stemmed from an alleged racial epithet.

Force defenseman Neal Goff and his 79-year-old grandfather were allegedly assaulted Saturday by members of the Des Moines Buccaneers, according to United States Hockey League director of officiating Scott Brand.

It is believed Goff, 18, made a racial epithet in last Friday’s game directed at Des Moines’ Trent Thomas-Samuels, who is black.

“There are two parts to the investigation,” Brand said late Wednesday evening. “One of the parts is the racial slur. That we can handle, because it happened within the confines of an arena.”

Brand said the second part of the investigation is in the hands of the Urbandale Police Department.

Urbandale police spokesman Jeff Casey did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Brand said the league is also waiting for a police report detailing the assault.

A basic report on the Urbandale Police Department’s website shows the incident occurred after the game at Buccaneer Arena in Des Moines.

No arrests have been made, according to the police department’s arrest records.

Force spokeswoman Whitney Baumgartner on Thursday directed all questions on the matter to the league office.

Baumgartner did say Goff was well enough to participate in practices as the Force left Thursday for a two-game road trip to Kearney, Neb.

The Force are hosting the Buccaneers next week for a two-game series.

USHL spokesman Brian Werger said there is no timetable for when the investigation will be concluded.

“Obviously, an incident has happened, and the thing from our standpoint is we just don’t know all the facts yet,” Werger said. “We’ve heard various allegations and different stories, but nothing has been confirmed, and we still have an investigation to complete. Part of this is in the hands of the authorities, too, and we are cooperating with them.”

Both Brand and Werger said the investigation is new territory for the league, because it involves the police.

Brand said even if the police did not pursue charges, the league will still hold its investigation.

The league could still suspend players on both teams.

“Once we make our ruling, it will get sent to USA Hockey,” Brand said. “If players or teams do not like it, there is the appeal process. Other than what the police do, we are going to handle the hockey aspect of it.”

Goff is in his first season with the Force, having played 28 games with the team.

He came to the Force from his high school in Stillwater, Minn., where he would have been a senior this year.

Goff is currently a student at Fargo South, which is where all Force players of high school age are enrolled.

Former NHL star Phil Housley coached Goff for three seasons in high school.

He said if the allegations are true, it was “uncharacteristic” of Goff, who was also a Minnesota state track champion as a junior.

Housley said Goff was maturing and developing into a leader, who led by example.

“He was a quiet kid who went about his business,” Housley said of Goff. “I really wish he would have stayed another year.”

A few Force players shared their thoughts on the incident on Twitter.

Forward Bryn Chyzyk, a University of North Dakota commit, tweeted the Des Moines organization, “should be ashamed of there (sic) actions tonight, happens on the ice stays on the ice.”

Goaltender and fellow UND commit Zane Gothberg tweeted, “Actions need to be taken on the ice instead of off…Really disappointed in what happened tonight.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com