THE governing body for amateur hockey in the province is expected to go ahead with regulatory changes that will compel teams under its jurisdiction to discontinue the use of nicknames deemed offensive or disrespectful.

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THE governing body for amateur hockey in the province is expected to go ahead with regulatory changes that will compel teams under its jurisdiction to discontinue the use of nicknames deemed offensive or disrespectful.

Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods said Thursday his organization’s nine-member board met Wednesday night to consider the matter, which has become a flashpoint recently with demands the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League’s Morden Redskins be forced to change their nickname.

Woods said there was full support from the board for a policy change.

"We looked at this issue five years ago and wrote to the Morden team to consider changing their name for the obvious reasons," said Woods. "And they felt that the name, at that time, they were not supportive of a change...

"It’s come to the situation now where things have proliferated to the point where I don’t think it can be ignored anymore. There’s no reason why in today’s age we need to be using terms like that to alienate any portion of our community or our membership."

Any bylaw or constitutional changes would be voted on at Hockey Manitoba’s semi-annual meeting in January. If passed, it would come into effect in the fall of 2021.

Woods said there are good reasons to work carefully on the matter. Avoiding a legal battle is one.

"Ultimately, we would have the authority just to force a change right now," said Woods. "I don’t know if that would be the best approach. More so, if there was a regulation or bylaw change that’s supported by membership, there’s a lot more teeth in that and a lot more longevity.

"So we’re sensitive to that and understanding we want to make sure that we do this the right way. That’s why we’re looking at changing our regulations to support that. Groups would not be allowed to just haphazardly identify themselves by certain names — those are existing teams or any new teams that would be new to our programs."

Woods said the next step will be to get a clearer picture of what other nicknames have racist or offensive connotations.

"I would be reaching out certainly to the Assembly of First Nations to get some direction," said Woods.

"Obviously those people would (be) a lot closer to the scene and then would be able to provide us with some information about what is and is not acceptable.

"There’s a number of terms out there where teams identify themselves as Chiefs, Braves, Natives, Warriors, etc. And they could be sensitive to some of those names and we want to ensure that when we do this, that we’re not overlooking anything and have all the information we can to make the appropriate decisions."

Woods sounded confident that change is afoot in Morden.

"My understanding is there’s a bit of a groundswell right now in that community, so that they’re getting some internal pressure to change the name," he added. "It was mentioned on our call last year that one of the board members had been in contact with them and they had indicated that they will be changing their name."

Woods said Neepawa, where the Manitoba Junior Hockey League franchise has been called the Natives since its inception in 1989, is also considering a name change.

— staff