Niagara IceDogs general manager Joey Burke and head coach Billy Burke have been indefinitely suspended by the Ontario Hockey League following an investigation into comments they made a month ago in a WhatsApp chat.

The OHL announced Wednesday that the IceDogs and Burkes, who are brothers and minority owners, have been fined a combined total of $150,000.

The league said the Burkes can apply for reinstatement no sooner than June 1, 2024, if they successfully complete counselling and education.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the league said its investigation began after it received transcripts of a March 6 WhatsApp conversation.

TSN has reviewed that exchange, which also included other team employees. In the discussion, the Burkes used coarse and profane language to describe a female IceDogs colleague.

OHL commissioner David Branch did not respond to repeated questions about why the Burkes were allowed to remain in their positions with the IceDogs after the league was alerted to the group chat.

The OHL did not provide details of the Burke transcripts.

The league said the conduct of the Burkes violated its harassment and abuse/diversity policy and breached its Onside program, which the OHL says, "emphasizes the importance of demonstrating respect for women through actions and words."

In March, the OHL said it had suspended Flint Firebirds president Terry Christensen after it was alleged that he had made an inappropriate racial comment about a player. Christensen was later expelled from the league for "conduct that is prejudicial to the welfare of the league."