Hockey Manitoba ups anti-racism initiative Exec to meet with grand chief on fact-finding mission

Earlier this summer, Hockey Manitoba took preliminary steps to eliminate the use of racist or offensive team nicknames in the game.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/09/2020 (823 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Earlier this summer, Hockey Manitoba took preliminary steps to eliminate the use of racist or offensive team nicknames in the game.

Now the sport’s provincial governing body is moving the process further.

Later this month, Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods plans to meet with the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Arlen Dumas.

Woods said he will be on a fact-finding mission.

“It’s important that we do our research and we get an education (on the nickname situation),” said Woods on Friday. “There’s other areas. What steps can we do to assist in embracing all of our members? I think it’s important that we start there.

“We need to be a little bit more progressive in what we’ve done and we’re dealing with a situation in regards to our Indigenous population that, I think we can all agree, there’s been some tremendous disservice to that community dating back over 100 years. We’re well past the sell-by date to introduce change here.”

The senior hockey team in the small city of about 10,000 in southern Manitoba is named the Morden Redskins. (Facebook photo)

By January, Hockey Manitoba is planning to change its bylaws to permit its board of governors to compel teams to change offensive nicknames.

Earlier this year, the Morden Redskins of the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League, long resistant to a nickname and logo change, agreed to make an overhaul after months of public pressure.

More recently, the MJHL’s Neepawa Natives announced plans to rename the team in time for the 2021-22 season.

Woods said acceptance of anti-racist attitudes has been triggered at the highest levels of the sports world, including the seismic impact of a name change with the NFL’s Washington franchise.

“It’s had a trickle-down effect and plus, what’s happened this summer with Black Lives Matter and some of the tragedies that have occurred over the last several months — it’s forced people to step up and say, ‘Hey, this is wrong. We need to make a change and accept some responsibility whether it’s a systematic overhaul or other,'” said Woods.

“It’s important to take steps and move in the right direction. Some of the name changes within our branch are long overdue and it was probably a wake-up call for some of those organizations… maybe getting a better understanding of how inappropriate those terms were.”

The game’s grassroots participants are seeing more leadership from the top.

On Thursday, the NHL unveiled a number of anti-racism initiatives. In co-operaton with the NHL Players’ Association, the league said it is instituting mandatory inclusion and diversity training for players.

An End Racism message is displayed before the start of the first period NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference playoff hockey action as Boston Bruins play Tampa Bay Lightning in Toronto on August 26, 2020. The NHL unveiled a number of anti-racism iniatives Thursday, some eight months after the issue was brought to the forefront. In conjunction with NHL Players' Association, the league said in a press release it's instituting mandatory inclusion and diversity training for players, while employees will participate in an "inclusion learning experience" focused on anti-racism, unconscious bias, dimensions of identity, micro-aggressions and cultural competency. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Other league employees will be expected to participate in an “inclusion learning experience” and there are plans to work with the player-driven Hockey Diversity Alliance to establish a grassroots development program.

“I think it’s a great initiative,” said Woods. “I live in a bit of an ivory tower in the sense that I grew up as one of the privileged… (But) I certainly empathize with those people (affected) and any steps we can take or if we can introduce something that can make us more diverse and inclusive as a society is a very welcome step.

“It’s great you see that leadership at the top… because that does filter down to the lower levels.”

Woods said a more inclusive sport should benefit everyone.

“If we want to expand and grow our program, we have to operate and be respectful of all our members,” he said.


mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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