Nova Scotia’s hockey community is rallying around a 16-year-old goaltender after he spoke out about the racial abuse he experienced at a tournament in P.E.I. in November.
Mark Connors plays for the Halifax Hawks U18 AA team, which participated in the Falcons Early Bird Tournament from Nov. 18-21.
Connors, who is Black, said young spectators in the stands repeatedly called him the N-word.
Later in the tournament, Connors said he and a friend were walking back to their hotel rooms when a player from a P.E.I. team made a racist insult.
When I walked by them they said, ‘You shouldn’t be playing hockey, this is a white man’s sport,’ ” he told CBC News.
Two years ago, Logan Prosper was in Connors’ skates.
“I know his story,” Prosper said.
Prosper, who is Mi’kmaq, faced racist taunts while playing for the Cape Breton West Islanders in 2019.
“I know exactly how (Connors) feels. It hurts. It hurts. Especially a game you love,” he said.
In a news release Wednesday, the Halifax Hawks said it won’t send teams to tournaments in P.E.I. until Hockey PEI investigates the incidents.
Halifax Hawks president Spiro Bokolas said the Connors family will speak with Hockey PEI via Zoom next week.
Hockey PEI president Al MacIsaac said in a news release Wednesday that it opened an investigation after it learned of the allegations on Nov. 24.
Bokolas ordered stickers for all 700 of the Hawks association’s players. Each sticker will bear Connors’ jersey number along with the Hawks logo and the words “Hawks against racism.”
He said the association is willing to pay for other hockey teams to don the stickers on their helmets.
Connors is receiving similar support from hockey teams and players across the province and beyond.
New Jersey Devils defenceman P.K. Subban tweeted on Thursday, “Hang in there mark! We got you.”
Also on Thursday, Prosper’s father Phillip posted on Twitter in support of Connors using the hashtag #redtape.
#RedTape in honour of 16 year old hockey player Mark Connors who faced racial discrimination during a U18 AA game in PEI last month. The fight against racism will never end but we can still do our part to promote awareness! pic.twitter.com/OXyAMg4j64
— Phillip Prosper™ (@PhillipProsper) December 2, 2021
“We can’t wait for another Logan Prosper, another Mark Connors,” he said in an interview.
After Prosper’s experience, he decided to bind his hockey stick with red tape to raise awareness of racism in the sport. The movement grew, with hundreds of hockey teams following suit to show solidarity as far as New York.
Prosper said he hopes to reach out to Connors to lend him support and give him some red tape.
In May, Hockey Nova Scotia released a report by its diversity and inclusion task force, which was created in response to Prosper’s case. Its recommendations included the development of a code of conduct to combat racism, and diversity training for staff.
Prosper said the taunts stopped after an investigation by Hockey Nova Scotia, although that investigation concluded the taunts were not racial.
He has two brothers, both hockey players, back home in Whycocomagh, N.S. Prosper said he worries his brothers will face racism on the ice.
“But not as much as I did before,” he said.
“There will always be those types of people in the world. There’s nothing we can do but just educate them and spread awareness.”