Manitoba hockey player suspended amid allegations of racist gesture

A Manitoba hockey player has been suspended after a weekend game in which he appeared to make a racist gesture against a visiting team from Waywayseecappo First Nation.

'We all must remember that these are young men who are still learning,' Dauphin Kings tweeted about incident

A Dauphin Kings player, left, makes an apparent bow-and-arrow gesture during a weekend game against the Wolverines from Waywayseecappo First Nation. (Twitter)

A Manitoba hockey player has been suspended after a weekend game in which he appeared to make a racist gesture against a visiting team from Waywayseecappo First Nation.

The incident happened just as the horn was sounding to end the game between the Dauphin Kings and the visiting Waywayseecappo Wolverines on Saturday.

The Kings scored with less than 30 seconds left to win 3-2 and as their players were celebrating near their goalie, and some Wolverines players were skating away, a Dauphin player raised his stick and made what seemed to be a bow-and-arrow gesture.

The player was immediately given a gross misconduct penalty, which is a minimum one-game suspension, according to the rule of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

In a vague statement on social media on Sunday, the MJHL confirmed the suspension and said it "takes situations of this nature very seriously."

It did not name the player or the reason for the suspension, saying an investigation is being conducted by an outside consultant.

When reached for comment by CBC News on Monday an MJHL spokesperson declined to offer anything more.

In an email, the spokesperson said "out of respect of the ongoing process to deal with this matter, at this time please refer to the statement and information issued last night by the MJHL."

There are postings by others on social media, claiming a Wolverines player made the same gesture first, after tying the game with 14 minutes left to play. He allegedly skated near the Kings' bench to do the celebration from one knee.

The Dauphin player was responding in the same way, the posts say.

No one from the Wolverines was willing to comment on Monday. Head coach Doug Hedley and Morley Watson, chair of the team's board of directors, said in fairness to the MJHL's ongoing investigation and the player involved, it is premature to say anything at this point.

The Dauphin Kings also posted a message on social media on Sunday, saying they along with the MJHL are reviewing "the actions of one of our players" but that "we all must remember that these are young men who are still learning."

The post called it an opportunity for the hockey club to educate all involved.

The post was met with a mixed reaction from Hockey Indigenous, a non-profit organization that promotes Indigenous hockey in North America.

In a response to the King's tweet, Hockey Indigenous thanked the team for looking into the matter but also chided it for not using Waywayseecappo's proper name — the tweet cut it down to Wayway.

It also criticized the comment about the incident being a learning opportunity, saying "one does not have to learn how not to be racist. Being racist is a choice."

In a separate tweet, Hockey Indigenous called the incident an "arrow attack" that is "beyond disgusting and hurtful."

Olympic hockey star Brigette Lacquette, who is from Dauphin, also weighed in on the matter, saying it is unacceptable and must be addressed.

"We can no longer sweep behaviour like this under the rug. It doesn't matter if it's 'getting back at the other team' it's racist," she posted.

Lacquette is the first First Nations hockey player to become a member of the Canadian women's national hockey team, and won a silver medal with them at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Last month, the American Hockey League suspended San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik 30 games for making a "racial gesture" at Tucson Roadrunners left-wing Boko Imama during a game.

A couple of days later, the East Coast Hockey League suspended Jacksonville Icemen defenceman Jacob Panetta for an apparent racist gesture toward opponent and fellow Canadian Jordan Subban of the South Carolina Stingrays.

Jacksonville Icemen later released Panetta, who was in his second season with the team.

About a month before those incidents, an investigation was launched by Hockey P.E.I. after a 16-year-old goalie from Nova Scotia was allegedly subjected of racist abuse in Charlottetown.

Al MacIsaac, Hockey P.E.I.'s president, told CBC News: Compass he was "sickened" when he learned that Mark Connors, who is Black, had said he was called the N-word multiple times by young kids in the stands.

The Halifax Hawks U-18 AA player also said that following the game members of another P.E.I. team told him that hockey "was a white man's sport."


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.

With files from Lauren Donnelly