Michael Herringer played between the pipes for the Kelowna Rockets from 2014 to 2017. (Warren Henderson photo)

Michael Herringer played between the pipes for the Kelowna Rockets from 2014 to 2017. (Warren Henderson photo)

Former Kelowna Rocket speaks out about racism in Canadian hockey, society

Michael Herringer shared his personal experiences on Instagram June 5

Amid worldwide discussions on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, a former Kelowna Rockets goaltender took to social media to share his experiences with the racism embedded in the culture of Canadian hockey.

Michael Herringer was a goaltender for the Rockets of the Western Hockey League from 2014 to 2017 before moving to the University of Regina. Born in Haiti, Herringer was adopted at 14 months old by a family in Comox, B.C., and currently lives in Victoria.

On Friday, June 5, Herringer shared a personal account of the racism he’s experienced in Canadian hockey and broader society in a post to Instagram.

“I’ve held off from saying anything for a bit because I couldn’t really verbalize how I’ve felt through all of this,” begins Herringer’s post.

“I’ve read and seen some pretty terrifying things in the news over the last while that hurts me to my core and shakes my faith in humanity. But at the same time there’s been so much beauty through all of this,” Herringer continues.

The 24-year-old detailed his time growing up as an adopted child in Courtenay, B.C, through to his time spent in Major Junior hockey.

“I was the obvious minority everywhere I went,” he states.

”As a young kid I didn’t really understand that people saw me differently. In my mind I was just another kid on the hockey team or another kid in the Grade 2 class photo.”

READ MORE: Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd amid push for change

“I would forget I was the ‘black kid’ until a coach, teammate, classmate or parent would point out how I stood out in a photo, or how it was weird that a black kid liked country music, or they would refer to me as ‘the black kid from Courtenay,’” Herringer says, adding that as a teenager he would brush aside his feelings on such “seemingly harmless remarks” out of fear for how they would be received.

“I didn’t want to be seen as soft or dramatic so I let them go.”

During his time in junior hockey, the comments only got more vitriolic.

“I’d get every kind of racist remark you could imagine from fans almost every time we’d play anywhere other than Kelowna,” he said of his time spent with the Rockets.

Herringer says he grew accustomed to the racist insults, viewing it as part and parcel of being in an opposing team’s building. He heard other, non-racialized insults directed at his other teammates and as far as he knew, the comments he was forced to absorb were “the norm.”

READ MORE: ‘I just felt I had to do something’: Vernon Black Lives Matter protest organizer

“But there’s something really wrong when a 17-year-old boy while playing the sport he loves is being singled out and openly told by an adult to go back to the plantation or that ‘my people’ know nothing about hockey and I should stick to basketball or cotton picking,” his post continues.

“The worst part is I’d mostly be embarrassed while this was going on, that something completely out of my control was causing a scene, and I’d just hope my coaches or teammates wouldn’t hear so they wouldn’t think any differently of me.”

Now in his 20s, Herringer says he has “tremendous respect” for police officers, but is heartbroken that he still feels compelled to fear them.

“I can’t imagine how I’ll explain to my kids one day that the people whose job it is to keep you safe might want to harm you because of the way you look, through no fault of your own.”

Herringer’s post ends on an optimistic note, despite all the things he’s heard from fans while between the pipes, or the looks of trepidation he still gets while walking down the street.

“I love who I am, I didn’t always, but I wouldn’t change it for the world now.

“It’s time that things change. And not just the smaller things that happen on the daily. This has to be a worldwide effort … I still believe it’s going to happen one day.”


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

hockey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Butter and sourdough bread is shown at a house in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. A Quebec dairy farmers’ group is calling on milk producers to stop feeding palm oil or its derivatives to livestock as controversy churns over how these supplements affect the consistency of butter. (THE CANADIAN PRESS - Jesse Johnston)
Poll: Care to spread your feelings on butter?

Reports of hard butter have rattled the Canadian dairy industry

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Princeton has seen a 22 per cent drop in drug overdose fatalities in 2020. (File photo)
While B.C. overdose deaths soar, Princeton made a recovery in 2020

Between 2018 and 2020, eight Princeton residents died of suspected overdose.

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Options available for medical care

Telephone and online methods allow people to contact doctors

Youth from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and the Kootenays were able to dig into two evenings of online learning and connection through United Way Southern Interior B.C.’s <CODE>anagan program. (Submitted)<code> </code>
CODEanagan gives youth a chance to learn about technology

The youth, aged 12 to 21, built their own WordPress sites and developed blogging ideas

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Wills Hodgkinson, 10, and his mom Neeley Brimer get ready to battle round three of cancer. The community of Penticton has his back. (Submitted)
Community raises $21K to help Penticton boy battle third round of cancer

Okanoggin Barbers held the fundraiser on Saturday for 10-year-old Wills Hodgkinson

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two separate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

Kamloops Fire Rescue battled a landfill fire which belched toxic smoke into the air on Feb. 27. (City of Kamloops Photo)
Fire at Kamloops landfill sends thick black smoke into the air

Firefighters made slow progress on the fire throughout the morning.

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read