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Zach Whitecloud impacted by discovery of grave at Indigenous school

DENVER — As a rookie, Zach Whitecloud is measured with his words, mindful not to provide bulletin board material.

When the Golden Knights defenseman speaks from the heart as he did Tuesday, it’s all the more powerful.

Following the recent discovery of unmarked graves on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, Whitecloud felt compelled to release a statement condemning the unfair treatment of Indigenous people.

Whitecloud, who grew up in Brandon, Manitoba, is the first member of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation to play in the NHL.

“I thought it was important that I use my voice and my platform to speak on the findings and just kind of say what I have to say,” Whitecloud said Tuesday. “I reached out to some family members and kind of got their views on it and some things to say and things to cover. I think the most important message out of the whole thing is I think the education aspect of it.”

During the 19th and 20th centuries in Canada, approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to attend residential boarding schools that were funded by the government and often run by Christian churches.

The Canadian government issued a formal apology for the residential school system in 2008.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded in 2015 residential schools were a program of “cultural genocide,” and at least 4,100 students died while attending.

Last week, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation said the remains of 215 children as young as age 3 were found near the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, which operated until the late 1970s.

The discovery started calls across Canada to find the rest of the unmarked graves from residential schools.

“As a young child, you don’t learn too much about it because it is a very dark and graphic past,” Whitecloud said. “Our people are a positive people, they’re a proud people. We want all people of all backgrounds to learn and know about the past and what happened, what our people went through, because I think that’s important.”

Injury update

Forward Mattias Janmark did not participate in practice after being knocked out of Game 1 and is day to day, according to coach Pete DeBoer.

Janmark was injured during the second period on a hit by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves, who was penalized for interference. DeBoer seemed to hint that Janmark was dealing with a concussion.

“He wasn’t in a good place today to practice,” DeBoer said.

Goalie Robin Lehner had a maintenance day and did not skate. Injured forward Tomas Nosek did not travel with the team, and DeBoer said Nosek is “making progress.” He hasn’t played since Game 2 of the first round.

Gear up

With Ball Arena unavailable because of the NBA playoffs, the Knights practiced at Family Sports Center in Englewood, Colorado, about 20 minutes outside of downtown Denver.

The facility had limited locker room space and no showers, meaning the players wore their gear on the bus to and from the rink.

“It was fun. I’ve done it a bunch of times in the American League and a few times in the NHL, too,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “Nice little bus ride.”

Thompson takes award

Silver Knights goaltender Logan Thompson was named the American Hockey League’s outstanding goaltender, as voted by coaches, players and media members.

Thompson previously was named to the Pacific Division All-Star team and the AHL’s all-rookie team.

The 24-year-old led the league with a .943 save percentage and was second overall with a 1.96 goals-against average while going 16-6-1.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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