First Nations hockey team subjected to racist taunts invited to NHL game

A First Nations youth hockey team that was subjected to racist taunts during a tournament in Quebec last year is getting the all-star treatment in Ottawa thanks to NHL star Ryan O’Reilly.

The Ontario-born St. Louis Blues centre and his mother BonnieO’Reilly were inspired to invite the team to Thursday's game against the Ottawa Senators after she read about their experience at the tournament in May, 2018.

Video footage  showed the First Nation Elites Bantam AAA being subjected to racist taunts from the opposing team and people in the stands at the Coupe Challenge Quebec AAA tournament.

“They’re just young kids,” Bonnie told CTV Ottawa. “It’s hard enough to be a teenager without having to be a victim of someone’s meanness.”

Toward the end of the 43-minute video that emerged following the competition, someone in the stands can be heard yelling "Gang de sauvages" or "Gang of savages."

“I was kind of surprised -- mostly because in 2019 this is still a thing,” said Julien Marshall, a player on the team.

The team has First Nations hockey players aged 13-15 from Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

“These kids are doing something they love and no one should ever make you change doing what you love to do,” Ryan O’Reilly said. “There are so many families that have been destroyed and have been through so many hardships and to try to demean and bring people down, there’s no place for that in the game.”

The youth players attended the St. Louis Blues' morning skate on Thursday where they met with some of the Blues players before going out forlunch with Bonnie, then returning for the game.

“You look up to all these guys on the ice,” said Colin Radt, one of the players, as he watched the morning skate. “It’s a good moment.”

The players also received shirts andhelmet stickers from Players Against Hate, an organization working to raise awareness and prevent racism in youth sports.

Radt said he and his team have been subjected to several racist incidents while on the ice.

“I’ve been called a savage, I’ve been told: ‘Get off the ice,’ I’ve been told I don’t belong,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep your head up high.”