Mask Artist Dave Gunnarsson Issues Apology, Now Working With Indigenous Artist For New Mask Design For Braden Holtby

Photo: @DaveArt

It’s been a tumultuous week for Swedish goalie mask artist Dave Gunnarsson. Gunnarsson, who has created mask art for many NHL goaltenders for quite a few years, drew criticism last week for his latest design for Vancouver netminder Braden Holtby.

As you may recall, Gunnarsson’s latest design for Holtby included Indigenous symbols depicting the legend of the thunderbird and orca. Some considered the new design as cultural appropriation.

“When we see the mask, although looking brilliant, one of the first questions you ask is, ‘Who made it?’” said Robert Philips, a member of the First Nations Summit Political Executive and the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (Shuswap) of the Canim Lake First Nation.

“Immediately thoughts of cultural appropriation come up,” Philips told Agahi.

Holtby immediately issued a public apology after receiving negative comments related to the design.

“I just wanted to make sure I apologize to anyone I had offended,” Holtby told CTV News’ Emad Agahi last Saturday. “It was definitely not my intent and I definitely learned a valuable lesson through this all and I’ll make sure I’m better and moving forward, do the things that help the community the most.”

Holtby said he planned to collaborate with a First Nations artist for a new mask he’ll wear for the 2020-21 season.

Gunnarsson made a public apology on Friday via his Instagram account. He also confirmed that he and Holtby were currently working with an indigenous artist on a new design.

“The goal was and still is to include Indigenous artist and try and pick their brain to see how they would design a mask to best represent the history and culture around this area especially because it’s so vast,” Holtby said.

Jay Soule, an Indigenous artist, told CTV News that Gunnarsson’s removal of the social media post “was a step in the right direction,” and said Holtby working with an Indigenous artist on the new design would be even more impactful.

“He clearly likes Indigenous art, that’s why he has chosen that style of work. Definitely collaboration with an Indigenous artist would be huge,” Soule said. “How great would that be for Indigenous people to be represented in an organization like the NHL.”

By Jon Sorensen

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About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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