Braden Holtby apologized on Saturday after images of his new goalie mask for the Vancouver Canucks, which featured an Indigenous Thunderbird and was designed by a Swedish artist, sparked calls for cultural appropriation.
Images of the mask were first shared on social media Friday by Swedish artist Dave Gunnarsson, who designs masks for many NHL goalies. In addition to the image of the Thunderbird, the social media post included the phrase “Thunderbird, The Northwest Coast Indigenous Myth”.
But Gunnarsson deleted the Instagram post on Saturday after several social media posts questioned why a non-Indigenous artist would create such a mask.
“Immediately, thoughts of cultural appropriation arise,” Robert Philips, a political leader of the First Nations Summit, told CTV News. “When we see the mask, although it is shiny, one of the first questions you ask is ‘who did it?’ ”
Holtby, who is entering his first season with the Canucks after signing a two-year, $ 8.6 million contract on Oct. 9, said he would not use the mask this season. He also said he will work with an Indigenous artist to choose a new design.
“The goal was and still is to include indigenous artists and try to choose their brains to see how they were going to design a mask to best represent the history and culture around this region, especially because it is so vast, ”he said.
Jay Soule, an Indigenous artist, said CTV News Gunnarsson’s removal of the social media post “was a step in the right direction,” and said Holtby would work with an Indigenous artist on the new design would be even more impactful .
“He clearly loves Aboriginal art, which is why he chose this style of work. A collaboration with an Indigenous artist would be really huge, ”said Soule. “It would be great for Indigenous peoples to be represented in an organization like the NHL. ”