Racial slurs hurled at Indigenous hockey player

Only a few games into the hockey season, 16-year-old Keagan Gaywish was nearly ready to hang up his skates for good.

The teen said it’s all because of a game between his team, the Minnedosa Erickson Chancellors, and the Swan Valley Tigers on Sunday during which fans from the opposing team hurled racial slurs at him as he left the ice.

“I guess they didn’t think I heard them, but my whole team heard it,” said Keagan. “I just got emotional feeling after that like I didn’t really want to play.”

Keagan’s dad, Roger Brightnose, wasn’t at the game but was horrified to hear what happened. “We sat down with him as soon as he got home, and had a nice chat with him, regarding how some of the people are in this world, and it’s unfortunate that you have to deal with this,” Brightnose said.

The matter was brought to the attention of the teams and schools they’re associated with, which have also been in contact with the family.

The Westman High School Hockey League said the fans have been temporarily suspended from the arena.

“To deal with fans, that’s a school-by-school situation, and I’m glad that they jumped on it right away and dealt with it,” said Corey Forbes from the league.

Going forward the Swan Valley Regional Secondary School said some new protocols will be put in place in Swan River.

They include having a parent from the Swan Valley team sitting behind the visitors’ bench to ensure no inappropriate comments, remarks or gestures are made. In addition, the corridor from the dressing room to the visitors’ bench will be cordoned off to keep minors from interacting with the visiting team.

“We have a little comfort right now knowing that he still wants to go out and play with his teammates and everything. We are a little skeptical, but we’ll wait and see what happens,” Brightnose said.

While it hasn’t even been a week since the incident, Keagan said he is ready to hit the ice again with the support of his family, friends, and teammates.

“Basically, when my friends found out they were mad and they just kept on asking me how I felt throughout the week, and I just told them I was okay,” said Keagan.

The Manitoba High School Athletics Association said it was not made aware of the incident.

The organization said incidents like this are handled at the league level, and also directly between the teams and schools involved.

It said if any party feels the matter has not been dealt with in a satisfactory manner, then the association would be requested.