- This weekend in Saskatoon, Indigenous hockey teams from around Canada compete in the Fred Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” National Hockey Championship.
- This weekend’s event has turned into a pilgrimage, with many fans and players flocking to the statue.
Indigenous hockey teams from all around Canada are competing in the Fred Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” National Hockey Championship this weekend in Saskatoon, from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, to Ochapawace, Saskatchewan.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the competition returns this year with 40 teams competing at Merlis Belsher Place and Rod Hamm Arena.
Neil Sasakamoose, the tournament’s organizer and son of the late Fred Sasakamoose, the first Indigenous person with treaty status to play in the Nation Hockey League, is overjoyed at how large the tournament is has become and how well he is regarded.
“These players are in their twenties, but my father was 86,” Neil explained. “They’ll spread the word in their area, and more people will know his identity.”
“He wanted them to compete here…and he selected Saskatoon as the universe’s center for it.”
Sasakamoose died in November 2020 after getting COVID-19.
A statue of Sasakamoose was erected outside of SaskTel Centre earlier this week. This event has evolved into something of a pilgrimage, with many fans and players attending the statue throughout the weekend.
Geronimo Whiteduck of the Nemaska Axemen believed the journey was worthwhile. The team posed for a selfie with the new statue after driving 13 hours from northern Quebec to Toronto and then another half-day to Saskatoon to play in the competition.
“He’s the one who started the tournament, and he paved the way for every Indigenous hockey player out there,” he added.
Saturday, Neil spent time with the squad, praising them for participating in the event. Each interaction, he claims, demonstrates his father’s legacy.
“It tells you how people perceive him across Canada,” Neil remarked.
Fred Sasakamoose was Neil’s father, but he’s a legend among these athletes.
“The forerunner. Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars said, “He’s the one who made it a reality for that youngster on the reserve to work harder, strive harder, and realize there’s a chance they can make it all the way.”
Sellars flew down from Williams Lake to compete in the event, and he wouldn’t leave until he had a photo with the fresh new monument.
“When I show these images to the kids back home, they’ll be psyched and hopefully inspired to work harder, strive harder, and hopefully one day be here,” he said.
These “bittersweet” experiences with players and supporters in town for the tournament were described by Neil. He’s spent the last few mornings eating breakfast next to the statue, wishing his father could be here for another tournament so he could see the impact he’s made across the country.
Source: CTV News