Is this hockey logo offensive?

Greg Wyshynski

The assault on the Washington Redskins’ name has ripped open the scab on the Native American mascot debate, with everyone from former players to President Obama asking that owner Dan Snyder change the name. 

This led to some speculative (read: click-baiting) articles about whether the same debate might be sparked in the NHL over the Chicago Blackhawks’ logo; articles that (a) misunderstood the crux of the Redskins controversy and (b) didn’t understand the origins of the Blackhawks’ name and logo.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t logos of questionable taste, given the current climate, in the hockey world; and one of them may be on its way out.

Thorold is a town in Ontario, and their junior hockey team is the Thorold Blackhawks. The name isn’t the issue, but the teams’ logo – a caricature of a First Nations warrior that bears more than a passing  resemblance to Mama Fratelli from “The Goonies” – has come under intense scrutiny for the last year.

The movement was sparked by a Facebook page called “Is The Thorold Blackhawks Logo Offensive?”, which used the Redskins controversy as a jumping-off point for its own critique of the logo. Soon local newspapers were editorializing on the matter, and members of the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church congregation in Thorold wrote a letter to the teams’ owners asking that they change the logo. (And when you lose the church in Thorold, well …)

The owners raised the usual counterarguments about honoring First Nations culture and how the logo is a part of their own deep-rooted history in the community, but that didn’t turn the tide.

According to the St. Catherines Standard, a resolution is expected before the puck drops this fall:

“These things take a bit of time, but every day we get a little closer to an understanding,” native activist Mitch Baird said. “Both sides are starting to understand each other a little better. That’s what we want.

“We want to educated everybody on these things not being appropriate anymore.”

Baird took issue with the team’s name and logo, a caricature depicting an aboriginal warrior wearing war paint and feathers. Minor hockey teams in Thorold also use the logo.

“I’m not a liberty to say much at this time, and I don’t want to say something out of line, but there will be a formal announcement, and I believe it will be positive and everybody will be happy in the community,” Ralph Sacco, co-owner of the junior B Thorold Blackhawks. “I’m confident it will be before the season starts.”

There was talk about Thoroid Hockey phasing out the logo over a period of years, in consideration of their investment in merchandise. 

If nothing else, this story is refreshing because it appears to feature two sides working towards a resolution without any legal action shoving it along and because it’s a reminder that common sense does have a home in these debates. A racist name? Change it. A cartoon parody of a Native Warrior? Drop it. The name “Blackhawks” used respectably, in a way that does honor the virtues of that tribe? No one’s saying there can’t be discussion about it, but maybe not the same level of automatic outrage. 

Meanwhile: The town's name is "Thorold." Just go with the Asgardians, and make that Marvel money! Well, until Stan Lee creates a Facebook page ...