The Merritt Centennials hosted an Indigenous Night event during their October 21 regular season game, honouring Indigenous history and culture in a pre-game ceremony. Multiple Indigenous Cents alumni were present, and the proceedings included drumming, speeches, and a ceremonial puck drop. The Centennials hit the ice in their new Indigenous jersey, the unveiling of which was another focus of the cultural event.
Cents team members donned their newly designed jerseys when they played the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday. The Cents emerged from the locker rooms in the new gear, designed by local artist Kayla Washington of Nooaitch Indian Band. The jersey features Indigenous-inspired designs, including a new version of the iconic Cents logo. Cents coaching staff said these initiatives are new to the Cents, and part of the team’s commitment to reconciliation.
“I believe it’s the first time we’ve done something like this. All we can do is educate ourselves, and we’re going to do that with the players and with our board,” said Curtis Toneff, Centennials head coach and GM.
“This is a special night for a lot of people, and a night where our players are made aware of why they’re wearing these new jerseys.”
A special pre-game ceremony was held before the Cents took on the Bulldogs, led by former Cents Head Coach Joe Martin, which included a number of speakers, traditional drumming, and a ceremonial puck drop. A number of Cents alumni walked the red carpet to centre ice, cheered on by the community that so loves its hockey team. Drummers performed welcome and closing songs, and newly reelected Chief Stu Jackson of the Lower Nicola Indian Band spoke regarding the value of the team and the importance of its relationship with Indigenous communities. Jackson himself played for the team as a teenager.
The Cents pulled off their third win of the regular BCHL season against their former coach’s team following the pregame ceremonies, beating the Bulldogs in a tight 6-5 game. As they move through the season and through the team’s regular operations, the organization said they are committed to education.
“On Orange Shirt day, we had a discussion with the team about why we’re doing these things. Let’s face it, a kid from California or different places in North America may not know what has gone on, or about the discoveries made in and around our area. It’s a real eye opener for them, and they can go home and educate their families on the unfortunate past Indigenous folk have had here, and the cruel things that have happened to them.”
For more information on the Merritt Centennials and Indigenous Night, visit the team’s website at www.merrittcentennials.com.