British Columbia

B.C. hockey team to change name out of respect for First Nations

The owners of the Saanich Junior Braves, a hockey team on Vancouver Island, have decided to change their team name out of respect for Indigenous communities.

The team's name and logo have been used since 1967

The name and logo of the Saanich Junior Braves have been in use since 1967 when the team first joined the Vancouver Island Junior League.  (Saanich Junior B Hockey/Facebook)

The owners of the Saanich Junior Braves, a hockey team on Vancouver Island, say they will change their team's name and logo out of respect for Indigenous communities. 

The team's name and logo have been in use since 1967 when it first joined the Vancouver Island Junior League.

Norm Kelly along with Edward Geric, the owners of the team, announced in a statement that the team name "is not respectful to our First Nations and does not reflect the valued relationships we hold with local First Nations communities or with our First Nations players."

Kelly, speaking with host Rohit Joseph on CBC's All Points West, said the change was not prompted by a particular controversy.

"I've never had anyone come up and say they were upset or disgusted," said Kelly, adding the name had sparked conversations over the years.

"But we feel like we want to be leaders rather than followers."

For years, there have been calls for a number of sports teams to reconsider their names on the grounds of offensiveness. The calls have intensified in recent months, especially in the wake of massive anti-racism protests in North America and increasing pressure from sponsors.  

The CFL's Edmonton Eskimos say they have accelerated the process of reviewing their team name following recent calls from sponsors. They will provide an update by the end of July.

The NFL's Washington Redskins, whose name is an Indigenous slur, have been particularly resistant to criticism. But the team now says it will undergo a "thorough review" of their name after its stadium sponsor, FedEx, demanded a name change, and Nike, the league's official outfitter, dropped the team's merchandise from its online website. 

Others, however — notably the MLB's Atlanta Braves and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks — say they've done work to build relationships with Native American communities and won't be considering a name change. 

Kelly says making a name change is a big decision, especially for teams in the professional leagues.

"It's a large process. It's an expensive process. It would be more so for them," he said. 

For now, his team will be referred to as the Saanich Junior B team until a new name and logo can be selected. He says the team has always had a good relationship with the community and any criticism for dropping the Braves moniker is "no more than usual."

Kelly said he doesn't know what, exactly, this process of renaming will look like, although it will involve input from the First Nations and Saanich community. 

"I think it will be good for our hockey team to start with a fresh set of goals and values."

Listen to the full interview with Norm Kelly on All Points West here:

The Edmonton Eskimos and some other sports clubs have been facing increasing pressure to change team names deemed offensive by many communities. Some are resisting the criticism. Others have tried to compromise by changing their mascots. But a hockey team on Vancouver Island is embracing the moment and is making a major change. The Saanich Junior Braves has announced they are getting a new name. Norm Kelly is a co-owner of the team and he spoke with Rohit Joseph. 9:23

With files from All Points West

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