Saskatoon

Fred Sasakamoose 'Chief Thunderstick' National Hockey Championship adds women's division for first time

The tournament is the dream-made-reality of Fred Sasakamoose, the first treaty Indigenous player in the NHL, and welcomed a women's division for the first time this year.

The tournament is the dream-made-reality of Sasakamoose, the first treaty Indigenous player in the NHL.

The Mistawasis Sagestrong celebrate becoming the first ever Fred Sasakamoose 'Chief Thunderstick' National Women's Champions. (Robin Daniels)

A tournament that highlights the Indigenous talent playing hockey welcomed a women's division for the the first time in the competition's history. 

Ten hockey teams competed in the women's division while 40 teams competed in the men's division of this year's Fred Sasakamoose "Chief Thunderstick" National Hockey Championship in Saskatoon over the weekend. 

In the women's division, the Mistawasis Sagestrong took home the top prize, beating the Cross Lake Lady Islanders 4-3 to become the tournament's first-ever women's champions. 

Among the team's players was Brigette Lacquette of the Cote First Nation. 

She was the first First Nations woman to play hockey for Team Canada, winning silver as of the 2018 Olympic team. 

Lacquette played in the men's divison of the tournament in previous years, and said it was a privilege to get out there among other Indigneous women. 

"It is awesome to see the development of women's hockey that has happened in the last five, 10 years," Lacquette said. 

"You know, it's definitely getting faster and more skilled. It was awesome to be on the ice and to play hockey."

The tournament is the dream-made-reality of Fred Sasakamoose of Ahtahkakoop First Nation. 

His goal was to someday have an Indigenous team compete at the Olympics. 

When Sasakamoose suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1950s, he was the first treaty Indigenous player in the NHL.

He served as an inspiration for Indigenous children and was inducted  into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, and became a member of the Order of Canada in 2018.

Last week a new statue of Sasakamoose was unveiled in front of SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon. 

The Canoe Lake Young Guns were the runner-ups in the men's division of the 2022 Fred Sasakamoose 'Chief Thunderstick' National Hockey Championship. (Leslie Kennedy)

Marty Ross, the coach of the Canoe Lake Young Guns, said it's a good thing to have a tournament that features Indigenous players. 

"It's very important for our community. It's one thing we kind of work at all year," Ross said.

"We enter in other tournaments to just try to groom ourselves and to get ready for the big one. This is the one that matters to us."

The team won the last edition of the men's tournament and placed as the runner-ups this year.

The Canoe Lake Young Guns team captains Craig McCallum, Dennis Iron Jr., and John Iron accepting the second place cash prize after the 2022 Fred Sasakamoose 'Chief Thunderstick' National Hockey Championship. (Provided by Leslie Kennedy)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexander Quon is a reporter with CBC Saskatchewan based in Regina. After working in Atlantic Canada for four years he's happy to be back in his home province. He has previously worked with the CBC News investigative unit in Nova Scotia and Global News in Halifax. Alexander specializes in data-reporting, COVID-19 and municipal political coverage. He can be reached at: Alexander.Quon@cbc.ca.

With files from Theresa Kliem

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