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NHL star Bo Horvat made an appearance at Komoka on Sunday to help the AAA youth team that helped launch his all-star career officially unveil their new name and jersey.

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The Vancouver Canucks captain was at the Komoka Wellness Center arena for a ceremony marking the name change from the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs to the Elgin Middlesex Canucks, a move aimed at eliminating any perceived insult to Indigenous communities.

“It’s really special,” said Horvat, also a former London Knights star. “Being a Canuck is a big deal for me. And hopefully it will be the same experience for many of these young children too.

After addressing the crowd in the stands, Horvat, 27, joined members of the elite minor hockey association, including brothers Hammer and Austin Brekelmans, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The team’s name change comes after the Ontario Human Rights Commission sent a letter to 40 municipalities asking them to remove all Indigenous-themed mascots, symbols, names and images from their sports organizations and facilities. The London Tecumsehs – a local youth baseball club named after the 1877 International Association champions, the equivalent of winning the World Series today – were recently renamed the London Talons.

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The hockey name change drew quiet grumbling from at least some men who played as kids for the Chiefs for the past three decades. But there’s no doubt among team officials that it’s time for a change.

“It was the right thing to do,” Elgin Middlesex Canucks president Karen daSilva said. “Change is always hard, so having Bo here just makes it exciting for the kids. It’s a great way to kick off the rebirth.

The Elgin Middlesex Chiefs, an elite AAA minor hockey association based in Komoka, are now the Elgin Middlesex Canucks. The new logo is at the top, the old one at the bottom.

After Sunday’s grand opening, young hockey players lined the arena hallway for autographs and photos with the NHL player. “It’s awesome,” Horvat said of being in Komoka. “It’s always nice to come back and see where it all started. Brings back a lot of memories, that’s for sure.

When asked what advice he had for young people, Horvat said to enjoy every moment of their experience, “have fun and make as many friendships as possible”.

Horvat played for the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs – now the Canucks – in his 2010-11 season, scoring 47 goals and 118 points to earn him Midget Player of the Year honors. He was selected ninth overall by the London Knights and won an OHL championship with the club before being selected ninth overall by Vancouver in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

The center has 366 points in 572 NHL games over eight seasons. He has one more season left on a contract that pays him $5.5 million before becoming a free agent.

Left to right: Karen daSilva, President of the Elgin Middlesex Canucks;  Brekelmans Hammer;  Bo Horvat, captain of the Vancouver Canucks and alumnus of Elgin Middlesex;  Austin Brekelmans;  and Alliance Hockey Vice President Keith Woods pose for a photo during a ceremony in Komoka which marked the rebranding of the AAA youth team, long known as the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs.  Photo taken on Sunday June 26, 2022. Calvi Leon/The London Free Press
Left to right: Karen daSilva, President of the Elgin Middlesex Canucks; Brekelmans Hammer; Bo Horvat, captain of the Vancouver Canucks and alumnus of Elgin Middlesex; Austin Brekelmans; and Alliance Hockey Vice President Keith Woods pose for a photo during a ceremony in Komoka which marked the rebranding of the AAA youth team, long known as the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs. Photo taken on Sunday June 26, 2022. Calvi Leon/The London Free Press

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