Nova Scotia

Hockey Nova Scotia forming task force after racial slurs hurled at teen player

A teenager from Whycocomagh, N.S., who says he faced racist taunts at a recent hockey game has been overwhelmed by the support he's received — including from a former NHL player — as Hockey Nova Scotia forms a task force to help address discrimination.

Logan Prosper has received widespread support, including from former NHL player Cody McCormick

Logan Prosper says he hopes to inspire change within the Nova Scotia hockey community. (CBC)

A teenager from Whycocomagh, N.S., who says he faced racist taunts at a recent hockey game has been overwhelmed by the support he's received — including from a former NHL player — as Hockey Nova Scotia forms a task force to help address discrimination.

Logan Prosper, 16, who is Indigenous, said he had no idea how far the story would travel or how many young Indigenous children it would inspire. Prosper said he's hopeful the sudden attention sparks a change in culture in the hockey community and beyond.

"I want [children] to feel good to be, not only just Native, but to be who they are," said Prosper. "This isn't just about being Native, it's about everyone being the same — equal."

Prosper, a forward for the Cape Breton West Islanders, said he was recently taunted by players of the Northside Vikings Midget A team during a game in Chéticamp. He even heard parents shouting discriminatory remarks from the stands.

The comments included things like, 'You look like a turd," and, "All Natives look like turds."

When Prosper told the referee what happened, the official said he couldn't do anything because he didn't hear it himself.

On Tuesday, Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Amy Walsh issued a statement saying, "It is clear to us that racism and discrimination continue to exist in our sport."

Walsh said a task force, made up of individuals from under-represented communities, was being formed to help inform the group's policies and procedures.

"This is a complex issue with deep and ugly historical roots. There are no easy solutions. But that is no excuse for inaction," said Walsh.

"We recognize that solutions will only be found if we work together, particularly with those who are and who have been most affected."

In an interview Wednesday, Walsh said work to convene the task force was already underway, but the incident involving Prosper accelerated that process.

"I believe hockey is such a powerful tool and when it's a safe space, it has so many ways to build stronger communities, develop leaders, but that space needs to be safe," she said.

Walsh said there is also a broader investigation happening that will look at things like whether disciplinary action is needed and whether the referee at the game should have acted differently.

Prosper initially considered quitting hockey following the incident. He said he has been encouraged by the support he's received from his teammates and the wider hockey community.

He was even contacted by former NHL player Cody McCormick, who is from Chippewa of the Thames First Nation in Ontario.

Former NHL player Cody McCormick, right, encouraged Logan Prosper to contact him any time for advice or support. (The Associated Press)

Speaking to Prosper on speakerphone on Tuesday, McCormick said he wanted to let him know that he's "not the only First Nations player that's had to deal with something like that."

He commended Prosper for the way he dealt with the situation — using his anger on the ice rather than directing it toward the perpetrators.

"Myself, being First Nations and playing hockey, I love the sport, but it definitely came with some of that," said McCormick, before saying Prosper was a "great example for the next youth coming up."

Prosper responded: "Wow. That means a lot to me. I can't explain it. It's so surreal."

Logan's father Phillip Prosper says he and his son have no doubt about the intent of the remarks and says racial taunts continued on and off the ice after the incident. (CBC)

Phillip Prosper, Prosper's father, said he's heard many stories from people who have had similar experiences but were dissatisfied when nothing was done to address it. He hopes his son's story sparks real change.

"I believe wholeheartedly that something is going to be done this time," said Phillip Prosper. "All we want is for people to be aware that it's happening and for it to stop."

He said there is now a push now for players in the league to wear red ties, red tape or red ribbons at games to recognize that racism exists and that it needs to be stopped.

The Strait Richmond Minor Hockey Association posted on its Facebook page Tuesday that red tape will be distributed to the Bantam AA and Richmond Academy high school hockey teams this week.

Phillip Prosper said he hopes the red tape becomes an annual campaign within Hockey Nova Scotia.

Logan Prosper said he hopes the new task force will mean if other players experience racism, Hockey Nova Scotia will be prepared to handle it.

He hopes his own story inspired other people to speak out. He said the whole experience, and the support he's received, has been overwhelming. 

"I always knew one little person could change something," he said.

So far, he hasn't heard anything from the Northside Vikings. He said an apology would be nice, but he isn't expecting one. 

"I just want it as a learning experience for them. Hopefully they learn from their mistakes... I just want them to learn and never do it again, that's all I want out of this," he said.

With files from Gary Mansfield

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