Canucks’ Holtby, mask artist collaborating with Indigenous artist on new design


Braden Holtby. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

After the design for his new mask was criticized as cultural appropriation, Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby and mask artist David Gunnarsson are collaborating with an Indigenous artist on a new design for the upcoming season.

Images of the mask Holtby originally intended to wear next season were shared last week by Gunnarsson, who’s based in Sweden, but drew criticism as the mask — which featured the Indigenous Thunderbird and the phrase, ‘Thunderbird, The Northwest Coast Indigenous Myth’ — was not created by or in collaboration with an Indigenous artist.

Holtby apologized Saturday for the situation. On Friday, Gunnarsson issued an apology as well.

“I’ve been made aware of the feedback about my mask design for Braden Holtby. I’ve talked to Braden and we won’t be using it next year out of respect for local Indigenous artists,” Gunnarsson wrote in a note posted on Instagram. “Our goal was to celebrate [the] Indigenous legend of the Thunderbird and Orca, and I have never intended to cause any concerns.”

Gunnarsson confirmed he and Holtby have begun work on a new design alongside an Indigenous artist.

“I have great respect for Indigenous artists, and Braden and I have started to collaborate with an Indigenous artist to make a new painting,” he said.

“I have learned from this and I also want to apologize to everyone who got sad. Thank you to all who contacted me about it, thank you for your wisdom.”

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