"While Mr. Shaw was apologetic and remorseful for both the offensive comments and the inappropriate gesture directed at the on-ice officials, he must be held accountable for his actions," said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. "The emotion of the moment cannot and will not be a mitigating factor for the conduct that is expected of an NHL player."
Shaw was in the penalty box during the third period, yelling at officials, when he used the slur. He was still fired up even after the team's 4-3 loss. He appeared ready to fight a Blues player and had to be held back by a referee.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Shaw apologized for using the slur.
"I came here to talk to you guys today, I wanted to apologize for my actions. I have no excuses for anything. I want to apologize to the gay and lesbian community, that's not the type of guy I am," he said.
"This is hard for me. I saw the video last night and I had a tough time sleeping, and it's gotten to me. I let my emotions get the better of me. I want to apologize to the organization, the NHL, my teammates, my family, my friends," Shaw continued.
When asked whether he understands why it was so hurtful to many people, Shaw replied, "I do, I get it, it's a hurtful word. You know, it's 2016 now and it's time that everyone's being treated equally. It's a hurtful word, I know that, I'm sorry and I want to apologize."
"I'll never use that word again, that's for sure," he added.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews also commented, saying that the slur did not reflect Shaw's character. He also said he hoped the incident could be used constructively.
"I think it's a moment to bring more attention to this sort of thing, especially in pro sports," Toews said. "At the end of the day, like I said, it's a teachable moment for us to realize going forward it's something that has to be scrutinized much more, that we think about much more and something we're much more critical of ourselves when it comes to these matters."
Both Shaw and the Blackhawks also released official statements.
"I am sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks that I made last night while in the penalty box. When I got home and saw the video, it was evident that what I did was wrong, no matter the circumstances. I apologize to many people, including the gay and lesbian community, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Blackhawks fans and anyone else I may have offended. I know my words were hurtful and I will learn from my mistake," Shaw's statement said.
"We are extremely disappointed in Andrew Shaw's actions last night. His comments do not reflect what we stand for as an organization. We are proud to have an inclusive and respectful environment, and to support various initiatives such as the You Can Play Project and the Chicago Gay Hockey Association. We will use this opportunity to further educate our players and organization moving forward, so that we all may learn from it," said the statement from the Blackhawks.
Some were willing to give Shaw a pass on the slur, but the firestorm of response on social media demanded a different response.
"The reaction on social media was unexpected and a deluge," said Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. "I was up pretty much all night listening to and reading it, and disturbing and at the same time made me feel good in a lot of ways."
Two weeks ago, the Blackhawks partnered with the You Can Play Project, an organization that works to fight homophobia in sports. You Can Play tweeted this statement overnight:
We are aware of tonight's incident and will be reaching out to the NHL immediately to assist in an appropriate response.— You Can Play Project (@YouCanPlayTeam) April 20, 2016
Chris Hine, a gay sportswriter who covers the Blackhawks for the Chicago Tribune, said in a tweet that while he has a good relationship with Shaw, and that what Shaw said Tuesday night is inexcusable.
As some of you may know, I'm a gay sportswriter -- who covers the #Blackhawks. I like Andrew Shaw and have a good relationship with him ...— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) April 20, 2016
But what he said tonight was inexcusable and is one of the reasons why gay athletes everywhere stay closeted and often live lives of torment— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) April 20, 2016
The NHL has been lauded in the past for its outreach to the LGBT community, but its leaders say Shaw's outburst shows why it is so hard for gay and lesbian athletes to come out.
Chicago's Center on Halsted CEO Tico Valle says the apparent derogatory comment sets the LGBT community back.
"When I think of the LGBT movement, we've come so far. This just shows we have further to go," Valle said. "It needs to be an apology, cultural sensitivity, anger management. It needs to be all of the above."
The Chicago Gay Hockey Association said they hope Shaw's mistake leads to greater inclusiveness and compassion, and said in a post on Facebook, "you can tell that he understands the impact of his actions."
Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and goaltender Scott Darling participated in a video supporting the You Can Play project's mission.
"Our team pledges to support all our coaches, teammates and fans," Darling says in the video. "We believe that athletes should be judged by their character, work ethic and talent, not their sexual orientation or gender identity."
A national television audience heard Kobe Bryant shout the same slur in 2011 at a referee he thought had made a bad call during a basketball game. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah yelled it at a Miami Heat basketball fan who had been getting on him during a game a month later. Both quickly apologized, and the National Basketball Association hit them with large fines: Bryant was fined $100,000 and Noah $50,000.
Sacramento's Rajon Rondo was suspended one game in December for using the slur as he berated official Bill Kennedy, who subsequently came out as gay.
Major League Baseball in 2014 suspended Yunel Escobar, then a shortstop with the Toronto Blue Jays, for stenciling the word, in Spanish, onto his eye black.
Like the MLB, the NHL has never had an openly gay player. The founder of You Can Play, Patrick Burke, works in the NHL's player safety office. He has championed the LBGT cause and says that he has met gay NHL players through the years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.