By Lauren McNabb and Tamara Forlanski
WINNIPEG — Aboriginal leaders gathered in Winnipeg Tuesday morning to urge community leaders, parents, referees and even NHL players to be the best possible role models for youth.
“We love our national pastime. … Hockey is our game and we take great pride in it,” said Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Chief Jim Bear. “But violence appears to be a blight on the game throughout Manitoba.”
The new conference was held following highly publicized fights among young hockey players from Manitoba, two of which involved First Nations hockey teams.
A brawl between teams from Brokenhead and Sagkeeng First Nation at the Southdale Community Centre in February will result in suspensions.
A coach and a player from the Sagkeeng team will be suspended. Letters detailing those bans are currently being written to the offending parties.
“It was just ugly all around,” said Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Donavan Fontaine. “It gave everyone in our community a black eye.”
Bear said everyone needs to do a better job of keeping violence out of the game.
A fight in late March during a game between 13- and 14-year-old players from Stonewall, Man., and Lake Manitoba First Nation also made headlines.
The First Nations leaders said they would like to see cameras put in arenas across Manitoba. They don’t know if it would stop the violence but feel the threat of a fight being captured on video could be a deterrent.
“Those caught on camera may see their face on the evening news,” said Chief Bear.
Hockey Manitoba said putting cameras in all arenas is not practical.
“There are in excess of 200 facilities that operate under the branch,” said Peter Woods, Hockey Manitoba’s executive director. “The costs of that would be prohibitive.”
Woods said it would be up to individual municipalities to make the decision to install cameras in rinks.