TORONTO -- A gay-rights group has complained to the CBC about the use of the term "pansification" by Hockey Night in Canada commentators.

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TORONTO -- A gay-rights group has complained to the CBC about the use of the term "pansification" by Hockey Night in Canada commentators.

Hockey Night commentator Mike Milbury coined the expression to describe how the NHL would be softened should the league heed calls to ban fighting. He has used "pansification" at least twice on Hockey Night this season, in November and again on Jan. 17. His colleague, Coach's Corner star Don Cherry, has also made reference to it.

Egale Canada, a gay advocacy organization, protested last week. But Scott Moore, the head of CBC Sports, said through a network spokesman Wednesday that commentators are free to make their own decisions whether to use the expression.

"That's ridiculous," said Helen Kennedy, the executive director of Egale Canada. "So it's OK for people to go around using these slurs -- derogatory, stereotypical terms against a group in society? That's outrageous."

Network spokesman Jeff Keay said neither Milbury nor Cherry intended to offend homosexuals by using "pansification," a derivative of the word "pansy."

"The point is, it was no way intended to be a reflection on or offensive to gay people," Keay said. "The way the language evolves over time, 20 or 30 years ago it would have been seen, reasonably enough, as a direct slur against gay people.

"But I think with usage now, I'm not sure the association is so immediate."