TORONTO -- Players of colour in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, the world’s largest minor hockey league, say they are routinely targeted with verbal insults because of their race​.

“I’d probably say, like, half of the games someone said something, but no one ever heard,” said Myles Douglas, a 16-year-old Black player from Georgetown, Ont.

“They always say it when the refs backs are turned, or when they know the refs or no one else will hear them.”

Douglas says he hears racial slurs directed at him in half of the 45 games he has played this season. It is difficult to say how many players experience racism on the ice, but CTV News spoke with other GTHL players who also said they were targeted but declined to appear on camera.

While the 40,000-player league said the data is tracked internally and players are penalized, it refused to disclose how often these incidents are occurring.

 “We don’t publish stats about minors on an anonymized or aggregated basis, since that may damage the reputation of the vast majority of the young players in our league whose good sportsmanship is beyond question,” said the League’s executive director, Scott Oakman.

But professional hockey players, including active and retired NHL and AHL players, say the league’s position is unacceptable.

“If you’re not being honest and open then you’re essentially -- you’re sheltering it, you’re hiding … You can’t hide any more. This is out there. We need to be able to be open, transparent,” said J.T. Brown, a player in the American Hockey League.

 Anson Carter, a former NHL player in Los Angeles, agrees.

“I always tell people that Toronto is the most diverse city in North America. Without a doubt. And by not releasing those numbers and by not being transparent, they are covering something up,” he said.

Racism in the sport has been happening for decades, players of colour say, but conversation around the issue is still relatively new.

In the NHL, only 43 players, or about six per cent, of the league’s 700 are players of colour, one report noted earlier this year.

NHL star Evander Kane of the San Jose Sharks says the same focus on racism in major league hockey needs to happen at the minor level as well. He recalled being targeted by the parents of players of an opposing team when he was only 10 years old. 

 "There are probably four to five parents banging on the glass behind me, screaming at me: ‘We should cut your f-ing legs off. You monkey. Somebody should kill you,’" he said.

Last year, former Calgary Flames player Akim Aliu said ex-Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters used a racial slur toward him multiple times in the locker room because of his choice of music back when he was a minor league rookie.

Peters later resigned after the team launched an investigation into his conduct. 

In Nova Scotia, Indigenous hockey player Logan Prosper, who is a member of the Waycobah First Nation, said in December that a player told him “all natives look like turds in their helmets,” that they should go back to where they came from, and shouldn’t be playing hockey.

Prosper said these types of comments were coming from parents as well. Hockey Nova Scotia eventually found that the “remark was not racial” following an investigation.