Braden Holtby hasn’t played a game for the Vancouver Canucks yet, but he’s already gone viral for two off-the-ice stories. First, in November, Holtby was trapped behind the US/Canadian border because he didn’t have the proper paperwork for his family’s two tortoises, Honey and Maple. Friday, Holtby’s new thunderbird mask for the Canucks was released by Swedish airbrusher David Gunnarsson. The design was criticized for appropriating First Nations artwork.
Holtby addressed the controversy on Saturday with CTV News and said he will not be wearing the mask next season. Gunnarsson also deleted imagery of the new bucket off his social media pages and did not respond to requests for comment from the news outlet.
“I wanted to make sure I apologize to anyone I had offended,” Holtby said to CTV News. “It was definitely not my intent and I definitely learned a valuable lesson through this all and will make sure I’m better and moving forward, do the things that help the community the most.”
Holtby explained to CTV News’ Emad Agahi that the design of his new mask ended up being rushed due to the unpredictability of next season and he will work with an Indigenous artist for his next design.
Holtby’s new Canucks mask 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/dMoU8wwPLX
— World Hockey Report (@worldhockeyrpt) December 11, 2020
“The goal was and still is to include an Indigenous artist and try and pick their brain to see how they would design a mask to best represent the history and culture around this area especially because it’s so vast,” he said.
CTV News also interviewed indigenous artist Jay Soule who explained why having a Swedish artist do the work is harmful to the community.
“If the goalie in question wants to use indigenous art on his helmet, the right thing to do would be just to reach out to an indigenous artist and commission an indigenous artist to do that,” Soule said. “When you think about the indigenous economy and how it’s been affected by all of this work coming from overseas, it’s catastrophic to indigenous artists who are trying to make a living through their work.”
Robert Philips, First Nations Summit Political Executive and member of the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (Shuswap) of the Canim Lake First Nation, also voiced his disapproval.
“Immediately thoughts of cultural appropriation come up,” Philips said. “When we see the mask, although looking brilliant, one of the first questions you ask is ‘who made it?’”
The mask flap comes as the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender tries to make himself at home in Vancouver after signing a two-year contract with the team in October. During his time in DC, Holtby routinely stuck up for the LGBTQ+ and Black communities, donating his time, energy, money, and platform to make the area a better and more inclusive place.
“That’s just the way our family views the world,” Holtby said. “We believe in equality and people being treated the right way. That’s just the way we live our lives. I don’t know the city of Vancouver well enough yet to do that, but that’s the way we live. If that voice needs to be heard, we believe we need to do our part that way. We just want to create the best world for our children and the future generations that we can.”
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