Marc-Andre Fleury wore a custom mask for the Minnesota Wild’s Native American Heritage Night last Friday after being told by the NHL it was not allowed per the leagues policy against specialty warm uniforms! Fleury took the ice for the team’s game against the Colorado Avalanche wearing the specially designed mask, to honor his wife, Véronique, an Indigenous woman, but will now be slapped with “additional significant fine.” Given the recent incidents, and minimal fines handed out by the NHL, I cannot do anything but complain.
This mask, for me, has it all. First, I love uniform talk. Maybe more than the game itself, a cool uniform will get me excited. Digging a little deeper, is personal to Marc-Andre Fleury. Deeper still, Fleury’s helmet makes are statement completely counter to the NHL’s attempts to keep players from celebrating diversity.
But this helmet hits on the deepest level because it draws attention one of the most abused and neglected populations in North American history. That Fleury knew he was going to be fined and still wore this work of art is no small statement in bringing awareness to this fact.
If you want to argue any of those points you are going to have to do so elsewhere. I am not hearing it. And while you’re at it find a history book or too. You need it!
But what about the Carolina Hurricanes? Why don’t they have a Native American Heritage night?
It certainly is not for a lack of Native American heritage in North Carolina. According to the University of North Carolina’s American Indian Center, there were there were 122,110 American Indians located in the state of North Carolina when the 2010 US Census was conducted. That number has climbed to over 300,000 in 2020. Or is an estimated rise of 160% in the population ranking North Carolina 6th among U.S. states with a Native American population.
There are eight (8) state-recognized Native American tribes located in North Carolina: the Coharie, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Haliwa-Saponi, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, the Meherrin, the Sappony, the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation and the Waccamaw Siouan. The Eastern Band of Cherokee is fully recognized by the federal government. The Lumbee tribe has partial federal recognition as a result of the Lumbee Act of 1956 signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
If the Carolina Hurricanes, or the Fayetteville Marksmen for that matter, wanted to really open up a entirely new market of fans, they would do really well by reaching out to leaders in 8 state-recognized Native American tribes located in North Carolina and finding out a way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month during the month of November. Of course money from the sales of merch would need to do to Native American educational funds or pre-approved causes that directly assist North Carolina Native populations.
More important than pulling in a new demographic to hockey, North Carolina, through hockey could make a bold statement. As one state with a most checkered history towards the American Indian population a Native American Heritage Night with the Carolina Hurricanes it might be a step, albeit a small one, to bring about more awareness of the genocide carried out on the Indian populations of North America. Frankly, I’d help raise funds for any Hurricanes player that wanted to break the NHL’s rules for such an event and I would at the least be forking over money for merch.