ANAHEIM, Calif. - A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center on Monday night to call for the suspension of Anaheim Ducks defenceman Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada of illegally obtaining a license to shoot a grizzly bear.
While Ducks fans entered the rink for their home opener against Vancouver, about 20 protesters held signs and shouted slogans condemning Stoner. He faces five charges related to the 2013 hunt on British Columbia's central coast.
"Killing is not a sport! Play a real sport!" the protesters shouted in unison. "Shame on the Ducks!"
Judie Mancuso, the president of Social Compassion in Legislation, compared Stoner to quarterback Michael Vick and Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, whose killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe sparked an international outcry.
"The entire globe is against trophy hunting right now," Mancuso said. "If most of these hockey fans understood that was the issue, I think most of them would be on our side."
Wildlife groups and First Nations leaders have been outraged by Stoner's killing of the bear, named Cheeky. Stoner defended his actions at the time when graphic photos of the kill were publicized, but he hasn't commented recently.
The protesters were serenaded by chants of Stoner's name by many fans, while others stopped to look at the signs. Mancuso said her group hopes to raise awareness of Stoner's legal troubles.
"If people didn't have outrage with the NFL, Michael Vick would have gotten away with it," Mancuso said. "The only way that anything is going to happen is if we do this. If there's not public outcry, nothing is going to happen, so we've got to try."
Stoner grew up on Vancouver Island, but hasn't lived in the province full-time for several years, which authorities say made him ineligible for the hunting license used to take the bear. He played for the Minnesota Wild at the time of the shooting.
Stoner faces two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting license and one count apiece of hunting without a license, hunting out of season and unlawful possession of dead wildlife. His case is set for Nov. 13 in Vancouver.
The 30-year-old Stoner was in the Ducks' lineup for their home opener, and he fought Brandon Prust in the opening minutes. Stoner is beginning his sixth full NHL season and his second with Anaheim after signing a four-year, $13 million deal as a free agent before last season.