The Maritime Junior Hockey League is planning a special week that will focus on Indigenous recognition and reconciliation.
All 12 teams in the league will wear specially designed orange and white jerseys later this month as part of the league’s week of reconciliation.
The jerseys were created in consultation with local First Nations leaders.
“We thought it was really important to make sure that we were going about it the right way,” said league president Steve Dykeman.
“We wanted to make sure that we were being respectful and, at the same time, bringing forward the right kind of recognition.
‘Very well done’
The new jerseys feature a crest on the front and back that says “Every Child Matters.”
A photo of residential school survivors also wraps around the hockey sweaters underneath each team’s logo and player number. The words “Every Child Matters” are also translated into Mi’kmaw and Wolastoqey on a black stripe that travels around the bottom of the jerseys.
“They are very well done and it’s all about bringing awareness and educating the public in regards to Indigenous matters,” said Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade. “When you talk about truth and reconciliation, this is what it’s about.”
Millbrook borders on the town of Truro, N.S. Sonny Kabatay, from Membertou First Nation in Cape Breton, plays for the Truro Bearcats.
He said wearing the jerseys will hold special meaning for the Indigenous players in the league.
“It’s nice that the league is doing this,” said Kabatay. “It’ll be really special for the game that we will be wearing them and it will be something I will always remember.”
A former Mi’kmaw NHL player from New Brunswick is also playing a role in the project.
Everett Sanipass grew up on the Elsipogtog First Nation, where he still lives. He played professional hockey with the Chicago Blackhawks and Quebec Nordiques. He also spent time playing in the American Hockey League with the Halifax Citadels.
“The more people that we can reach out to and educate on what this means to Indigenous people is very important,” said Sanipass, the first player of First Nations descent to be inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame.
“We all need to work together to help find solutions that are comfortable for everybody.”
Sanipass, who has been involved with the planning of the new jerseys, said he will be at some of the arenas where the games will be played. The junior league has six teams in Nova Scotia, five in New Brunswick and one in Summerside, P.E.I.
The jerseys worn in the 12 games will be auctioned off by each team at the conclusion of the schedule. Dykeman said each team is expected to donate the proceeds from the jersey auction to Indigenous communities in their respective communities.
- Nov. 24 Miramichi at Grand Falls.
- Nov. 25 Miramichi at Edmundston.
- Nov. 25 Truro at Pictou County.
- Nov. 26 Pictou County at South Shore.
- Nov. 26 Summerside at Truro.
- Nov. 26 Fredericton at Valley.
- Nov. 27 Truro at Amherst.
- Nov. 27 Campbellton at Miramichi.
- Nov. 27 Edmundston at Summerside.
- Nov. 28 Amherst at Yarmouth.
- Dec. 3 Pictou County at Campbellton.
- Dec. 5 Edmundston at Fredericton.