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Blackhawks banning headdresses, increasing Native American cultural representation in game presentation

An announcement by the team Wednesday outlined several ways the Hawks hope to “further integrate” Native American culture into the organization.

The Blackhawks will ban headdresses, such as the one worn by this fan in this 2013 photo, at future games.
The Blackhawks will ban headdresses, such as the one worn by this fan in this 2013 photo, at future games.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

The Blackhawks announced several initiatives Wednesday designed to better honor Native American culture.

Most notably, the Hawks will ban headdresses at all future games at the United Center.

“These symbols are sacred, traditionally reserved for leaders who have earned a place of great respect in their Tribe, and should not be generalized or used as a costume or for everyday wear,” the team said in a statement.

Headdresses used to be a common sight around the 2010 Stanley Cup run but have become less common in recent years. The team has discouraged them, but they weren’t officially banned as recently as this past season.

The Hawks also broadly described intentions to more thoroughly incorporate Native American culture and education into the United Center and their in-game presentation there.

The team occasionally hosts Native American leaders for pregame ovations or intermission performances, but such events are somewhat infrequent. The arena itself currently contains very few references to Native Americans or the 1800’s Sauk tribe leader Black Hawk, for whom the franchise is named.

It sounds as though the team plans to change that moving forward.

“These efforts will continue to honor Native American contributions to our society . . . as well as showcase that those achievements are not limited to history books and museums but thriving right now within our military, business, the arts and more,” the team said.

The Hawks also announced that they’re working with Trickster Cultural Center, a Native American arts center and museum in suburban Schaumburg, to build a new Blackhawks-sponsored wing of the building.

The wing “will include Native American artifacts from their vast collection and integrate a greater use of technology to create an interactive space for students throughout Chicagoland,” the team said.

Wednesday’s announcements come after the Hawks said earlier this month that they’d keep their name and logo. That announcement was prompted by the NFL’s Washington franchise beginning the process of moving on from their Redskins nickname.

Hawks are youngest team

The Hawks, despite their aging core, sport the youngest roster of the 24 teams in the NHL playoffs.

Thanks to the impact of 19-year-olds Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist, among other youngsters, the Hawks clock in with an average age of 25.6 years old.

The Rangers are second-youngest at 25.7; the Islanders are the oldest at 28.9, just above the 28.5-year-old Predators.

A list ranking every team by average age went around Twitter on Tuesday, but Duncan Keith wasn’t impressed when asked about it.

“The whole ‘being the youngest team,’ ‘coach with no experience in playoffs,’ those are convenient excuses if things don’t go well,” said Keith, 37. “There isn’t much of a difference between the ages.”

Kruger helped recruit Suter

Marcus Kruger wasn’t able to land another NHL job after his second tenure with the Hawks ended last summer. He instead signed with Zurich SC of the Swiss League.

There, Kruger scored 19 points in 34 games this season. He also conveniently occupied the locker next to the league’s leading scorer, Pius Suter — now signed by the Hawks.

Kruger’s presence apparently aided the recruitment process.

“We talked through the season about stuff,” Suter said Monday, speaking for the first time as a member of the Hawks. “I asked him a couple things [about Chicago]. He told me how much he loved it. After that, I just tried to make my own mind and my own decision.

“I know he loved it there, and [he’s a] great guy. So we talked a lot and, for sure, it helped.”