Vancouver, BC- The world is finally waking up to racism and equality, even though it should have a long time ago. With the current uprising for social justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, a new wave of movements and projects have begun, each seeking equality throughout the world. The latest? Mongo’s Brave Buddies, organized by Yvan Mongo of the University of Ottawa men’s hockey team.
Announced on July 3, the program aims to make a difference in the lives of visual minority minor hockey players in the Ottawa region, giving young athletes a chance to learn from Mongo’s experiences. While application details have not been announced, the program would involve a game/practice day experience with the Gee-Gees men’s hockey team, who nearly won the OUA’s Queen’s Cup in 2020.
“With all of the recent events, it has sparked a bit of an uprising, and I wanted to get involved with the community,” said Mongo to 49 Sports, before continuing on to explain how these ideas only came to mind recently.
In the announcement made on social media, the Gee-Gee’s describe Mongo as someone who is constantly trying to “be the best person he can be,” and as “an integral part to the team’s beliefs and culture.” The Ottawa program has been very welcoming to Mongo, and he’s spoken about how the players and coaches treat him as equal, rather than a minority member of the team.
Although the Gatineau resident is now in a good environment, he knows the struggles and discriminations that visual minority hockey players can go through. In an interview with the CBC, Mongo spoke of various times he was called out because of his race. The first two times were in minor hockey, but at that age, he didn’t totally know the impact words can have. “I was relatively spared. The first time, I was Atom, so I didn’t really understand the impact of words.”
While the first two times were bad, they did not shake him as much as the third, which came in the QMJHL. “That one really hurt, because I thought I was at a stage in my career where I had won the respect of my opponents,” said Mongo to the CBC.
The recent uprising and his personal experiences are what shaped the idea of Mongo’s Brave Buddies, but it wasn’t all Mongo, rather Gee-Gees head coach Patrick Grandmaitre helped form the idea, and continued to spread his welcoming presence throughout Ottawa’s hockey community.
Mongo’s Brave Buddies is the first project of it’s kind to come from a U SPORTS hockey program, but not the first with some relation to U SPORTS hockey. Although not directly affiliated, former UPEI Panther and recent NHL retiree Joel Ward is a founding member of the newly formed “Hockey Diversity Alliance.”
U SPORTS hockey has many players from visual minorities, although for now, the project is only at UOttawa, however, Mongo sees potential for it to grow. “I haven’t thought of a way to bring in other players from other schools since it’s a brand new project, but it would be great to see it happen or least to see other similar initiatives come to life. It will only help grow the game of hockey and the next generations of kids, no matter their ethnicity will benefit from it.”
The UOttawa Gee-Gees, spearheaded by the activism of Yvan Mongo are taking a valuable step in the right direction for inclusivity in hockey, and are the latest action taken in the global uprising for social justice.
49 Sports is supporting Mongo’s Brave Buddies and will alert our followers and subscribers of any further releases or information regarding the program.