Sasakamoose hopes hockey tourney inspires Indigenous youth
- NC Raine | April 21, 2017
Former NHL player Fred Sasakamoose, at 83 years old, continues to carve out a cultural and pioneering legacy. Sasakamoose will forever be remembered as “The Original” - the first Indigenous player in the NHL, who played 11 games for the Chicago Blackhawks in 1954. Now Sasakamoose hopes to inspire younger generations of Indigenous young people with the 2nd Annual Fred Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” All-Reserve/Métis Hockey Tournament.
“It's up to us to show these young people the pride and joy of something they can look forward to,” said Sasakamoose at a conference in Saskatoon announcing the year's tournament.
Sasakamoose, a Saskatchewan native from Big River First Nation and Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, is a residential school survivor, where he endured emotional, physical, and sexual abuse for his cultural associations. He knows how important sport is in the lives of young people dealing with struggles.
“I'm not going to sit idle anymore. I'm going to see my children back in that game. They deserve to be there,” said Sasakamoose.
Partnering with Saskamoose in the 2nd Annual Chief Thunderstick tournament is former NHL great Chico Resch, a Moose Jaw native, who played fourteen seasons in the NHL, including winning a Stanley Cup Championship with the New York Islanders in 1980. Resch says that once players retire, they begin to grapple with their legacy and how they'll be remembered.
“Once you've retired after reaching the top, after hearing people chanting your name, you ask yourself what your legacy is going to be. I know Freddy [Sasakamoose] wants to leave a legacy behind,” said Resch.
“I want to be part of this process. Non First Nations and First Nations, it's been sort of a separation. They'll come and do some [work in the community] and then they're gone. It just hasn't worked. What I envision, we need to be standing together with our arms around each other and say 'are we going to do something together or are we going to just feel bad?'”
Resch says the goal of the tournament is not just to promote sport, but to make a long term impact on the lives of young people everywhere.
“Freddy and I are committed to building this,” says Resch. “We need committed people from all walks of life to help solve problems not just for young people but everyone in this world.”
The 2nd Annual Thunderstick Hockey Tournament takes place April 28-30th at Harold Latrace arena in Saskatoon.