Saskatoon

Fred Sasakamoose statue unveiled at SaskTel Centre

A new statue facing Gordie Howe's was unveiled in front of SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon on Wednesday morning. It’s of Fred Sasakamoose, who was the first treaty Indian to play in the NHL when he suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1950s. “It's a good day for us,” said an emotional Neil Sasakamoose, Fred’s youngest son.

Sasakamoose played for the Blackhawks in the 1950s and was a role model for Indigenous kids

Neil Sasakamoose stands beside the statue of his father Fred Sasakamoose. (CBC/TRAVIS REDDAWAY)

A new statue of Fred Sasakamoose, placed facing Gordie Howe's, was unveiled in front of SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon on Wednesday morning.

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

"It's a good day for us," said an emotional Neil Sasakamoose, Fred's youngest son.

Neil said one of the last things his dad said to him was, "Look after your mom [Loretta], so that's what I do.

"And then the second thing is don't let people forget who I am."

The statue of Fred Sasakamoose stands opposite the statue of Gordie Howe. (CBC/TRAVIS REDDAWAY)

Sasakamoose was born on the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation near Shell Lake.

He was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, and became a member of the Order of Canada in 2018.

He died in November 2020 at age 86 after being hospitalized with COVID-19.

He was also a role model to Indigenous kids across the country.

Fred Sasakamoose was the first treaty Indigenous player in the NHL when he suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1950s. (CBC/TRAVIS REDDAWAY)

One of those people inspired by Sasakamoose was Blackhawks scout Brigette Lacquette, a former Olympian and the first Indigenous woman to scout for an NHL team.

Lacquette said she met Sasakamoose after the 2018 Olympics.

"He made me feel like I knew him forever," Lacquette said. "He was so genuine, so down to earth. And I remember thinking that's exactly how I want to make others feel when I meet them."

Neil Sasakamoose, with his mother Loretta at his side, speaks the the unveiling of his father Fred Sasakamoose's statue Wednesday at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon. (CBC/TRAVIS REDDAWAY)

Sasakamoose wrote a bestselling book, Call Me Indian, that was published last year.

The autobiography is a story of racism and resilience as he survived residential school and made it all the way to the NHL.

More than 100 people came to the unveiling, including dignitaries from First Nations and the NHL.

FSIN vice-chief Dutch Lerat said everywhere Sasakamoose went, young hockey players would gravitate to him.

"They would gather around him. They knew who he was. He was very inspirational and still playing hockey and scoring goals."

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