Saskatchewan Examiner

Thursday, February 29, 2024

In Saskatoon, a statue of Indigenous hockey legend Fred Sasakamoose was unveiled

A statue of Indigenous hockey legend Fred Sasakamoose has been unveiled in Saskatoon.

Key Takeaways:

  • Outside SaskTel Centre on Wednesday, a statue of Indigenous hockey pioneer Fred Sasakamoose was unveiled.
  • Sasakamoose, a member of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, was one of Canada’s first Indigenous professional hockey players.
  • The NHL sent representatives to express their support and thank Sasakamoose for their efforts to make the game more accessible.

On Wednesday, a statue of Indigenous hockey pioneer Fred Sasakamoose was unveiled outside SaskTel Centre.

“I’m filled with conflicting emotions.” “You’re honoring someone you wish was here,” Sasakamoose’s son Neil explained.

Sasakamoose, a member of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, was one of Canada’s first Indigenous hockey players to play in the NHL (NHL). During the 1953-1954 season, he was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sasakamoose dedicated his life to motivating young people through sport, including breaking the racial boundary for Indigenous hockey players in the NHL after quitting competitive hockey some few years later.

“He was anti-racist and anti-hate.” “I think that’s a lesson for everyone,” Neil remarked, adding that he only believed in love in his heart.

Also read: Why the COVID-19 trend in Saskatoon could be cause for cautious optimism

“First and foremost, the statue is intended to make Indigenous people proud. It’s also important for Canadians to realize the distinctions and hardships that this generation had, and it’s still going on now.”

After contracting COVID-19, Sasakamoose expired in November 2020.

The Synergy 8 Community Builders, and also the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) as well as the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs commissioned the statue.

“Recognizing Indian people for their achievements because Indian people have value, and you can see that when we have leaders like Fred,” STC Tribal Chief Mark Arcand remarked.

Mayor Charlie Clark also spoke on the significance of having this statue in Saskatoon, on Treaty 6 land.

“Kids walking up the stairs will see Fred Sasakamoose on one side and Gordie Howe on the other and will be inspired and strengthened.”

The NHL sent representatives to offer their support and acknowledge Sasakamoose’s efforts to make the game more inclusive.

“What he represents to Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States is unparalleled.” “We’re working hard at the NHL to draw Indigenous boys and girls to our game and show them a better sport, but Fred did it with ease,” said Rob Knesaurek, the league’s vice president of diversity.

A pro scout for the Chicago Blackhawks and a member of the Cote First Nation in Saskatchewan, Brigette Lacquette, expressed the team’s gratitude to Sasakamoose.

A statue of Indigenous hockey legend Fred Sasakamoose has been unveiled in Saskatoon.
A statue of Indigenous hockey legend Fred Sasakamoose has been unveiled in Saskatoon. Image from CBC News

“We’re incredibly happy to have Fred among our illustrious graduates. He influenced and continues to influence many people across our wonderful game of hockey and North America,” she said.

Neil thinks the statue will inspire the next generation of Indigenous sportsmen and a message to people to never forget their roots.

“Don’t get too big for your britches if you’re born in a tiny town, a First Nation, or a Metis village.” Always remember your origins and who placed you there,” he advised.

“And that’s what my father did; he could’ve stayed in the United States and enjoyed a life of hockey and travel, but he returned to his hometown and lived there until his death.” So, as my father would have put it, that’s his reminder. Always keep in mind your roots.”

The statue’s unveiling comes just one day before the start of the Fred Sasakamoose Chief Thunderstick National Hockey Championship at Merlis Belsher Place and the Rod Hamm Memorial Arena.

The competition, which takes place from May 19 to 21, brings together men’s and women’s hockey teams from around Canada.

Source: CTV News

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