Smudge the Blade apparel celebrates hockey culture while giving back to communities
'We take pride in our First Nation hockey,' says Harlan Kingfisher
A First Nations-run business is celebrating the hockey community and sharing pride in First Nations culture through clever sayings on T-shirts, hoodies and hats.
Smudge the Blades was started by Harlan Kingfisher, a father of four from Sturgeon Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, located about 150 kilometres north of Saskatoon. He now lives in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., with his family.
Kingfisher grew up playing in First Nations hockey tournaments where members of the communities would show up to support the players from their bands.
"I wanted to celebrate our culture the same way," he said.
The brand launched two months ago at an online store and has been gaining popularity among the hockey community.
Designs range from Cree syllabics that translate to "Smudge the blades," to sayings like "First Nation Hockey Sensation" and "Real deadly hockey auntie."
Kingfisher said the name Smudge the Blades comes from his own ritual before a hockey game where he would take sweetgrass and smudge his hockey stick and skates, to play well and get goals.
"We take pride in our First Nation hockey," he said.
"That's one thing that brings us together."
Kingfisher said he hopes to have the apparel available locally in communities like The Pas and Thompson, Man.
Giving back to the community
Kingfisher said he wasn't able to play hockey until he was older because it's an expensive sport and he recognizes that as a barrier for some youth. He said youth hockey changed his life and put him on a good path and he wants other youth to be able to experience that.
A portion of the sales from the clothing goes back to First Nations youth to help with purchasing new hockey equipment and with hockey registration fees.
Kingfisher said he reached out to Beardy's and Okemasis Cree Nation in Saskatchewan to see how he could help the hockey community and he paid to register three pre-novice players for the season. He also said he's received messages from people looking for help buying hockey gear and he contacts their local hockey shops and puts a credit on file so the players can purchase what they need.
The company has recently partnered with Okema, and Snipe and Celly Proshop from Flying Dust First Nation in north-western Saskatchewan. Kingfisher said he hopes to put some money toward hockey camps in the future and purchasing gear for local kids there.
Kingfisher put one of his sons into the Indigenous Hockey Academy, an Edmonton-based program that helps Indigenous youth gain skills and confidence in the game. The 14-week program runs four days a week and features both on-ice and dry-land training.
He donated money this year to the academy for jerseys.
"We just started talking about his company and I thought it was just so great what he's doing," said Trevor Berard, the academy's director of hockey operations.
"He's doing it all for mostly hockey, but also giving back to our Indigenous communities and our Indigenous people."