Many factors went into the decision to change the name, including trends in the sporting world at large, as well as a planned regulatory change by Hockey Manitoba regarding offensive names, Pearson said.
« [The board wants] to start a new era “while continuing” the history and tradition of the hockey club, ”he said.
Pearson’s history with the team dates back to its inception in 1989, when he started out as a player at the age of 16. The team’s current name, the Neepawa Natives, dates back to the early 1960s, when the local senior men’s intermediate hockey team adopted it, he says.
With that story in mind, Pearson said he and other members of the community felt some “disappointment” at the prospect of changing their names.
“There’s also… some excitement about it too,” he said. “I understand that in our ever-changing world we have to keep pace and we don’t want to be left behind. So we have to look forward and embrace the change as a team, and I can’t wait to be the guy who helps lead that. ”
Peter Woods, general manager of Hockey Manitoba, told CBC News on Wednesday he had yet to hear about the decision to change the name, but said the move demonstrated “good leadership and a social conscience.” .
“I think it’s important that teams or organizations recognize that changes need to be made. And it’s great to see that they’ve done this without any push or pressure or force from the sport’s governing body, ”he said.
The Hockey Manitoba board of directors, which oversees amateur hockey in the province, is considering a regulatory change that could give it the power to force resistant clubs to change controversial or racist names.
An official vote on the rule change has yet to take place, but it could take place as early as January at Hockey Manitoba’s next semi-annual general meeting.
For the Neepawa team, there is currently no process planned to effect the name change, which is expected to happen in time for the 2021-2022 season. Local leaders and business people will come together to formulate a plan, Pearson said.
The decision to change the team’s name comes as another southern Manitoba hockey team, based in Morden, is considering a name change.
First Nations organizations, along with the mayor of Morden, have asked the town’s senior men’s hockey team to change its name, which is seen as an insult to Indigenous peoples.
Morden’s team previously said they have internal discussions and will provide an update soon on what they plan to do.