Indigenous NHL pioneer Fred Sasakamoose dead at 86
Son Neil Sasakamoose shared the news of his father's death on Facebook
Fred Sasakamoose, one of the first Indigenous athletes to play in the National Hockey League, has died after being hospitalized with COVID-19.
He was 86 years old.
Sasakamoose's son, Neil Sasakamoose, said in a video on Facebook that his father had died Tuesday afternoon, five days after he was admitted to the hospital.
"The COVID virus did so much damage into his lungs, he just couldn't keep responding," Neil said. "He just couldn't keep up."
Neil also said his father appreciated all the people who sent him encouraging cards and videos since his hospitalization, and shared the last conversation they had.
"I talked to him about one o'clock in the afternoon ... and I asked how he was feeling, if he was scared," Neil said. "He said 'I'm not scared.' He said. 'I'm ready to go. If I've got to go, I'm going to go.'
"And I said 'you know what, dad? If you're tired, you go. You go and don't worry about us over here.'"
During his NHL career, Fred played 11 games with Chicago during the 1953-54 season, splitting time with the Moose Jaw Canucks of the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League.
After his hockey career, he became involved in sports programming for young people, particularly with the Fred Sasakamoose "Chief Thunderstick" National Championship for young Indigenous hockey players.
Outside of the sports world, he served as band councillor and chief of Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation.
He was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, and became a member of the Order of Canada in 2018.