Junior hockey player's gesture triggers strong condemnation in Manitoba
Player has received misconduct penalties in last 4 games against Waywayseecappo
Members of Manitoba's Indigenous and hockey communities are speaking out against racism in the sport after a junior hockey player made what appeared to be a racist gesture toward an opposing team on the weekend.
A Dauphin Kings defenceman was given a gross misconduct penalty at the end of his team's 3-2 win over the visiting Waywayseecappo Wolverines in Manitoba Junior Hockey League action Saturday.
The 20-year-old from Toronto raised his stick and made what seemed to be a bow-and-arrow gesture toward some of the Wawayseecappo players who were skating away from Dauphin's end of the rink.
"It's an issue that's very topical. It's something long overdue that we need to clean up and it's totally inappropriate," said Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods.
"I don't think anyone is happy with that or should be happy with that, and that's not the behaviour that should be tolerable within our sport."
WATCH | Junior hockey player's gesture triggers strong condemnation:
The league's Anti-Racism Player Education Program, announced in June 2021, says any player, team official or executive member found to have acted contrary to the anti-discrimination policy — "addressing verbal taunts, insults or intimidation actions or behaviours based on discriminatory grounds" for reasons related to race, religion, colour or sexual orientation — will be penalized.
The first infraction is a minimum three-game ban, with a second infraction resulting in at least a five-game suspension. A third incident would see the individual slapped with an indefinite suspension.
The player's actions were reported by on-ice officials in the post-game report and he was given a gross misconduct penalty, resulting in an automatic suspension. He was absent from Dauphin's lineup Monday as the Kings blanked the host Neepawa Titans 4-0.
The player, who was acquired in a trade from the British Columbia Hockey League's Cowichan Valley Capitals in late October, has amassed 85 penalty minutes in just 31 games with the Kings.
The Kings and Wolverines have met six times in the regular season, and the player has been given a combined 55 penalty minutes in the last four matchups between the western Manitoba foes, including a 10-minute game or gross misconduct in each game — the only times this season he's received such a penalty.
'What was he thinking?'
Stephane Friday is the co-founder and director of hockey business for Hockey Indigenous, a group that advocates for Indigenous hockey players. He wants to see the player given a 10-game ban.
Friday called the gesture "disgraceful" after seeing video of it for the first time, and said there is no place in the hockey for this type of belittling behaviour.
An unacceptable behaviour has occurred in the <a href="https://twitter.com/mjhlhockey?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mjhlhockey</a> as <a href="https://twitter.com/dauphinkings?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dauphinkings</a> player #17 Klim Georgiev gesutred an arrow attack on First Nation Team <a href="https://twitter.com/mjhlWolverines?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mjhlWolverines</a> . <br><br>Racism have no place in hockey and in this environment, beyond disgusting and hurtful. <a href="https://t.co/k52Qy4bW7u">pic.twitter.com/k52Qy4bW7u</a>—@HKYIndigenous
Friday worries the penalty handed down to the defenceman will not be harsh enough and affect the psyche of the up-and-coming generation of young people from First Nations communities.
"All they want to do is play hockey and for them to experience racism, discrimination and paternalism, they feel like it's going to block their motivation," Friday said.
He credits the officials for making the call but also questions why the defenceman made the gesture.
"Note that he did that while an Indigenous player [on the Wolverines] was skating away, doing that right behind his back," Friday said.
"I'm baffled by that. Like what was he thinking?"
The Manitoba junior league released a statement Sunday evening saying it takes these types of situations seriously, and the player has been suspended and a full investigation with the use of an external consultant is underway.
Boh Kubrakovich-Kiniw, lead keeper with the government of First Nations in Treaty 2 Territory, was at the game in Dauphin on Saturday.
He hopes the investigation from the league leads to even more enhanced educational measures, including on the part of the Kings.
"I'm glad that ownership and accountability was taken right away and good to see the league taking action," he said.
"We've reached out to the league and the Kings to say, 'Hey, we have a solution here. We have a good solution. Let's all work together on it.'"
Kubrakovich-Kiniw said the bottom line is that everyone has to work together so that instances like this can be eradicated from sports.
"We're going to take every advantage of teaching," he said. "Let's teach, right?"
The Kings return to the ice against the Wolverines for a back-to-back set of games this coming Friday and Saturday. It's not known if the player will be eligible to return to the lineup for either of his team's next two games.
With files from Lauren Donnelly