After 53 years as the Saanich Braves, the longest-running Junior B hockey team in Greater Victoria, will change its name.
On Tuesday, July 7, the team pulled its logo off social media – a logo that matches the profile of the Chicago Blackhawks, a First Nations man with feathers in his hair. It’s a logo that owners Ed Geric and Norm Kelly inherited when they bought the team over a decade ago and has been used since the team started with the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League when Pearkes Arena was built in 1967.
For now, they are the Saanich Jr. B hockey team. The next step is a new logo, name, and website, which will take some time, Kelly said.
“There wasn’t a lot of pressure, it’s really a timing thing,” Kelly said Wednesday morning. “We looked at it two-and-a-half years ago for our 50th-anniversary celebrations and we talked about it. At the time, there was no pressure so we said, let’s do our 50th and then we’ll design something for our next 50 years.”
That discussion included a formal review at which time Kelly said the club reached out to local First Nations.
At no time did any First Nations or Indigenous people approach the team to criticize the logo, but Kelly said they were aware it would need to go.
“We’ve had positive relationships with our First Nations players, with the local First Nations, and never had any [negative] input,” Kelly said.
When they quietly removed the logo from the team’s social media sites on Tuesday night and with no accompanying announcement, people noticed anyways.
“Everyone picked it up right away,” Kelly said. “We were very pleased with that. People noticed, they were ready.”
The timing is based on multiple actions. Edmonton’s Canadian Football League team and Washington’s National Football League team are both reviewing the appropriateness of their nickname, though professional clubs such as the Cleveland and Atlanta Braves baseball teams and the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team (which the Saanich logo mimicked) are not.
The Saanich Braves minor hockey association abandoned the same name and logo last year when it merged with Victoria Esquimalt Minor Hockey to become the Victoria Admirals.
“At the time, ‘Braves’ was thought of as something prideful, but things change,” Kelly said.
Moving forward, there is an opportunity for a lot of fun despite the unknown of the upcoming junior hockey season, which may or may not happen, Kelly said. Regardless, the club will now start the process of picking a new name and is inviting suggestions from the public.
“At this point in time, we don’t know what the upcoming season holds, or what the new name will be. We want it to be something that represents our values and goals for the future,” Kelly said. “As for hockey in the fall, that’s the million-dollar question.”
Hockey Canada and Hockey B.C. are working with provincial health authorities and the VIJHL will follow their decisions, Kelly said.
As far as summer training goes, Pearkes arena is expected to put ice in the green rink this month though Saanich is also rebuilding the original gold rink. Most local rinks are permitting skating but limiting numbers and restricting any hockey games.
“The original plan, pre-COVID, was to have fun with the renovations,” Kelly said. “We were thinking about starting the season with construction-themed jerseys and handing out hard hats to fans.
“Now, we might be playing on video, who knows.”
Fans can send their suggestions to SaanichJrBHockey@gmail.com.