Braden Holtby’s first mask for the Vancouver Canucks received backlash because it apporpriated First Nations artwork. A month later, an apologetic Holtby has already righted that wrong.
During Vancouver’s home opener against the Montreal Canadiens on January 20, Holtby debuted a new bucket primarily painted by a First Nations artist. The detail is stunning.
The controversy first started in December when David Gunnarsson published the design of Holtby’s first Canucks mask online. The helmet featured indigenous artwork of a thunderbird. The illustration’s execution was flawless, but the Swedish airbrusher designed it without consent from First Nations people.
After receiving heavy criticism on social media, Holtby apologized a day later and immediately started working with Luke Marston, a Coast Salish Artist and Stz’uminus First Nation member, on a new design.
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In an interview with CBC, Marston explained that he thought Holtby had the right intentions so he wanted to help his team respectfully execute it.
“I was like ‘Oh no’,” said Marston. “I was excited to see First Nations art on there, I think most people were, but then just the way they executed it wasn’t so cool… It’s just respecting one another, respecting one another’s culture and other people’s intentions.”
Marston had previously made art for Francesco Aquilini, the Vancouver Canucks owner, so he reached out and said he would be willing to help create the new helmet design.
“I love the fact that Francesco, the Canucks, and everyone involved respect First Nations and our art form enough to correct this and address it,” said Marston. “I just felt bad for the whole situation. Nobody wants to be targeted by cancel culture… with how tragic everything is with COVID and all that negative energy out there, this is something that became positive really fast. We switched the narrative really fast and everybody seemed to be accepting it and excited about it now.”
To get inspiration for the new design, Marton first had a conversation with Holtby and told him different Coast Salish stories. They created a design based on the legend of wolves transforming into orcas to hunt on land and seas.
“He really likes that,” said Marton. “It fit for the Canucks being on the hunt this year.”
The right side has an orca and the left side features a wolf in mid-transformation. Gunnarsson still contributed to the design by painting the Canucks logo on the top and Holtby’s number on the Chin.
Using plastic as a medium for his art was new for the carver who typically works with wood as well as bronze and stone.
“[The goalie mask]lends its shape well to our art form,” said Marston. “I think First Nations art can be adapted really to anything. With the mask culture that we do and all the masks that we carve, it lends itself really easily to the art form.”
The mask was traveling back and forth between Vancouver and Sweden and got its finishing touches of padding and straps added with hockey equipment company, Bauer. It made it back to Vancouver just in time for Holtby to wear it for the Canucks first home game. Holtby saved 31 saves in a 6-5 shoot-out victory against the Canadiens.
Marston was excited to see his creation in action and posted this video on his Facebook when Hotbly recorded a win while wearing his new gear.
Marston is not the only one excited about the new design, fans are also enjoying the new look.
Holtby’s mask is absolutely FIRE 🥵 #Canucks
— Michelle Truong (@truonggmichelle) January 21, 2021
Holtby’s mask looks great! #canucks
— lucas 🎺 (@theLUCASTDS) January 21, 2021
Headline photos courtesy of @luke_marston_
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