In January, the U18 Hinton Havoc travelled to a nearby community to play a regular season game. It was just another hockey game in another rural Alberta community.
For Hinton, it wasn’t just another hockey game though.
As the game went on, racial slurs echoed in the arena. At first, the Hinton Havoc’s manager, Charity Lawrence wasn’t sure what she heard. When she saw the mother of an Indigenous player with tears streaming down her face, she knew she heard correctly.
“I’m embarrassed to admit that this was my first experience with racism,” said Lawrence. “I did not know what to do. I was so angry, so emotional.”
The taunts and slurs were coming from a group of local young men. Lawrence confronted them, and when they denied it, she called the local minor hockey association.
After the game she spoke to the player and his mother who told Lawrence that this wasn’t the first time they had experienced this behaviour. As a team manager of seven years, she couldn’t believe that she did not know this was happening on her own team.
“I told this player and his mother that he never has to put up with things like this, it’s not okay,” said Lawrence. “His mother replied, ‘sometimes you just get tired of the same fight.’”
Lawrence responded with the will to fight for them and with them.
“The events of that day kept me awake at night,” said Lawrence. “I demanded the boys in the stands be identified and their parents contacted. I wanted them banned from future games we would play there and punished for what they did. But I didn’t feel like that was enough.”
It was only days later when Hockey Alberta’s Maltreatment Awareness contest came across Lawrence’s social media feed. The contest, in partnership with the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF), was developed to bring awareness to Maltreatment happening in the game.
“It could not have come at a better time,” said Lawrence. “This contest was another opportunity for us as a team to show our support for not only this family, but for every family who has ever been treated so horribly in minor hockey.”
The contest encouraged pictures to be taken with the posters and banners that were distributed across facilities in Alberta. Lawrence took it a step further by creating posters for the team to sport during practice and submitted a photo.
The effort and creativity caught the eye of the selection committee. Selected as the winners, the Hinton Havoc were awarded tickets to the Sportsnet Lounge at Rogers Place for the Oilers’ February 21 match-up against the Philadelphia Flyers.
It wasn’t until after they were selected that Hockey Alberta was made aware of how close to the heart this contest was for the team. After learning of Hinton’s experience, the EOCF invited the team to spend the day at Rogers Place. Together the team took in the Oilers and Flyers morning skate, toured the Oilers Hall of Fame, and met alumni, Kevin Lowe. Flyers forward, Kevin Hayes, even gave his stick to one of the boys.
“This event sparked conversations with families and the team,” said Lawrence. “I appreciate this opportunity given to us by Hockey Alberta and the EOCF, not just to go to the Oilers game, but to show this young man and his family how much we care.”
Maltreatment does not belong in the game of hockey. Hockey Alberta wants to create an environment that welcomes everyone. If you or someone you know experiences or witnesses Maltreatment, please report it. Hockey Alberta is committed to ensuring an investigation of all reports of Maltreatment, Bullying or Harassment involving participants takes place. To learn more about Maltreatment and how you can report it, visit hockeyalberta.ca.
If your facility or Minor Hockey Association is interested in the Maltreatment posters or banners, please contact Darcy Smith, [email protected].