The National Hockey League should rename the Memorial Hall in Ottawa to honour Aboriginal people and not the country of Canada, a panel of retired NHL players, broadcasters and historians said Thursday.
“The memorial is an enduring and meaningful part of the national memory of the Indigenous people of Canada,” the group wrote in its report, published Thursday.
In the wake of last year’s deadly attacks on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin and the attack on a mosque in Quebec City, which killed nine people, the NHL has pledged to make it a “more welcoming and inclusive space” for all Canadians.
It is a decision that will also come as a blow to the families of those killed in the attacks.
The panel said the league should be willing to take steps to “advance the rights of Aboriginal people in Canada.”
It also urged the NHL to adopt a new Indigenous culture in which it can “recreate a place of reconciliation and acceptance” for Indigenous people, including by creating a “tangible legacy.”
“The NFL is the most popular sport in the world and we know it is a global success story, but we also know that there are people in our community who do not feel safe in their communities,” said former NHLer Brian Leetch, who served as an ambassador for the league during the 1990s and is now president of the Association of Canadian Sports Writers.
“We need to get behind the league in terms of taking action to address the issues that exist in Indigenous communities and to make sure we have a place where we can all come together to celebrate the greatness of this great country.”
Leetch said he hopes the NHL will adopt the recommendations from the panel, which recommended the league rename the memorial to honour the “legacy of the indigenous peoples of Canada” as well as “recognize the important role that the NHL played in advancing the rights and rights of Indigenous people in this country.”
The report also called for the NHL and the federal government to establish a national Indigenous heritage day.
“As we look back on this day, the legacy of the NHL, the success of our players, the Canadian national team and the many millions of fans who witnessed this historic event should not be forgotten,” Leetch wrote.
“It should be part of our collective national memory.”