Thousands of Greater Victorians felt connected with The Tragically Hip by attending concerts at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre over the years.
The arena’s anchor tenant, the WHL’s Victoria Royals, are strengthening that connection further with a fundraising venture that got underway at last Friday’s game against the Seattle Thunderbirds and runs for the next few weeks.
Mike Downie, brother of late Hip lead singer Gord Downie and co-founder with him of the Gord Downie/Chanie Wenjack Fund, was in town that day to help promote the fundraiser.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity in the country right now for non-Indigenous Canadians to become more aware of Indigenous lives, to try and move the needle and create a more inclusive country,” he said.
The fund began life a year ago and emerged from Gord Downie’s The Secret Path project, which included an album, graphic novel and animated film, all about the escape of Aboriginal youth Wenjack from a residential school and his subsequent death before he could get back home. It was a way to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together to “keep the conversation going” on Indigenous issues, Mike said.
He and other volunteers with the fund were “blown away” when the Royals reached out to ask if they could help.
“With Gord, the association with hockey is just so obvious. This is a rink that Gord started many tours in; started other tours always in Victoria, so it feels really good to here,” Downie said.
A custom-designed goalie mask created by Travis Michael is to be auctioned off on CHL Auctions. The Royals previously installed a sign board at rink level to help raise awareness, and proceeds from the sale of all of last year’s game-worn jerseys will be donated to the fund.
“When someone like Gord Downie, who we all had a great deal of respect for, says that he cares about something, I think it does wake up a lot of Canadians …,” said Royals general manager Cameron Hope. “It’s just a matter of taking those small steps that we can take to raise awareness and try to inspire people to educate themselves about Indigenous issues in their own communities.
“It’s a simple thing … to just ask people to care. I think Canadians, by and large, care for one another and if you give them a reason to care about an issue and challenge them to educate themselves about it, I think they will.”
For more information about the fund, visit downiewenjack.ca.