Holland said he was briefed on the issue by team staff just before his season-ending media address on Wednesday.
Bear’s girlfriend Lenasia Ned said on social media that the defenseman “has received a lot of racist messages and comments” following the Oilers’ four-game series loss to Winnipeg in the first round of the playoffs in the NHL.
The Jets tied Game 4 at 3-3 after a Bear roll, with Winnipeg ultimately winning in triple overtime. The 23-year-old bear is from the Ochapowace Nation in southern Saskatchewan.
“He is a great role model for all young athletes, especially in the Aboriginal community,” said Holland. “He gives time to the community. It is popular in the locker room. … I feel sick for him, I am disappointed for him that he gets this kind of abuse. I think we have made progress, but there is a long way to go to create a world in which everyone feels safe and where they do not experience this kind of racism and abuse.
Holland said he planned to contact Bear.
“I am 65 years old. I don’t live in this world of social media, ”he said. “I want to talk to our PR managers… and see what we can do as an organization to try to make sure that doesn’t happen in the future. “
Bear, with Ned by his side, raised the situation with a statement in a two-minute video posted to social media later Wednesday.
“I know this doesn’t represent every Oilers fan or hockey fan, and I greatly appreciate your support and love during this time. I am here to resist this behavior, these comments, ”he said. “I’m proud of where I’m from, I’m proud to be from the Ochapowace First Nation. I’m not doing this just for myself, I’m doing this for all people of color, I’m doing this for the next generation, to help make the change to love each other, to support each other, to be kind towards each other. There is no place for racism in our communities, in sport or in our workplace.
“I call on all of us to make changes and end racism. “
The Oilers followed Bear with their own statement, saying:
“The Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club is equally disappointed with these disgusting, cowardly and racist remarks. While we have seen progress in the area of equality and inclusion, this reprehensible behavior shows that we still have important work to do. We call on everyone at Oil Country to stand up to racism, speak out against hatred and do their part to make our community a community of acceptance, inclusion and respect. “
The NHL also released a statement on Twitter later Wednesday.
“Ethan Bear represents both our sport and his Aboriginal heritage with dignity and pride,” said the NHL. “He and all people of Aboriginal descent deserve to feel empowered and respected on and off the ice. We are alongside Ethan and his family to speak out against hatred. “
The Treaty 6 First Nations Confederacy said in a statement it was appalled by the racist comments.
“We all have a responsibility to speak out against racism in all circumstances and to call on those involved to stop,” said Grand Chief Vernon Watchmaker. “We are aware that racism is hurtful and that it has gone on for too long.”
Oilers captain Connor McDavid has also shown his support for Bear.
“Racist comments directed at our teammate and our brother Ethan Bear are not acceptable,” McDavid said. “People who spit out this kind of hate should think twice about their behavior. On behalf of all of my Oiler teammates, we are firmly behind Ethan and against racism of any kind. “
Bear has played 43 games this season, as well as all four playoff games, recording major minutes on the Oilers blue line. In the regular season, he averaged 17:58 on the ice, finishing with two goals and eight points.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.