Manitoba Minor Hockey teams the Waywayseecappo Wolverines played the Neepawa Natives last Saturday at the Neepawa’s Yellowhead Centre. The game got ugly, from players yelling at players to parents heckling players.

The trainer from the Wolverines was quotes as saying that “We heard many parents saying ‘those boys are just going to get drunk, maybe they’re drunk now. They’re probably hungover. Look at how they’re playing.'”

Tanis Brandon, a mother of one of the players, tells reporters that the yelling and heckling from parents started following the first period.

“My son has long hair, they were teasing him about his hair,” she said. “In our culture, our hair is our strength… For somebody to use our race and our culture against us… I hope he doesn’t want to cut it.”

From that point on, the roughness of the game escalated. The second period was a rough one on the ice and in the stands. The physicality of the game increased and the heckling from the stand intensified. Both teams were taking penalties. The officials on the ice had talked to the player and coaches about the physicality and verbal abuse going on throughout the game. “The game was canceled before the puck dropped in the third period “ says Brandon. The children on these teams are 11 and 12 years old. Parents estimate there were about a dozen of parents in the stand heckling and making racial comments to the players. The Wolverines ended up forfeiting the game, which resulted in cheering from the stands for the other team.

Following the game, Brandon had a conversation with her son, a defenseman for the Wolverines and he had a lot of questions. He didn’t know why they were calling them savages and didn’t understand the stereotypes about Indigenous people being drunks. Brandon went on to say: “I felt like crying, As an adult, I didn’t even know how to handle it if someone called me a dirty Indian or a savage.”

This isn’t an uncommon finding in minor hockey, where parent get too involved in the game. I understand that game can get aggressive on the ice, but parents yelling racial slurs at 11 and 12 years old is utterly unacceptable. Parents are role models for their children, and their actions will influence the game. This article by J. Sanders offers one perspective on how fans become too involved in sports.

Featured image: Tanis Brandon and her son
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