Thunderstick tournament celebrates Freddie Sasakamoose
- Katie Doke Sawatzky | May 07, 2017
Sixteen hockey teams played in the second annual Fred Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” All-Reserve/Métis Community Hockey Tournament at the Harold Latrace Arena in Saskatoon over the weekend.
The final four in the A side were Red Pheasant Cree Nation, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, and Ochapowace Nation with the Red Pheasant Rebels winning 2-1 in the final against the Ochapowace Thunder.
Sheldon Wuttunee from the Red Pheasant Rebels said his team was excited to play at the tournament.
“We were looking forward to the Fred Sasakamoose tournament and the aura that it brings to the game. We came to play not only in honour of this great man, but also to redeem ourselves from our last tournament at the Senator’s Cup in Prince Albert,” he said in an email.
Even though the tournament provides an opportunity for quality Aboriginal hockey, the event has a specific purpose: to celebrate Fred Sasakamoose, the first Aboriginal player to play in the NHL.
Wuttunee said Sasakamoose is one of the greatest men he’s gotten to know.
“His humbleness and love for his First Nations people is what I see and try to emulate,” Wuttunee said. “He works to instill the positive value of a strong work ethic in others and not to take your talents and gifts for granted.”
Neil Sasakamoose, who was the tournament organizer, said his father is often asked to be a guest speaker in schools and drop pucks at games. He said his father was also present at an event at the University of Saskatchewan last week to mark the start of construction on the new arena. But, Sasakamoose said, what Fred Sasakamoose really appreciates is being recognized by his peers.
“He likes when NHL teams phone him and say, ‘Fred, can you come here.’ That’s a part of him, that’s a place inside of him,” said Sasakamoose.
Along with hockey, the weekend featured a banquet to honour Sasakamoose, who is 84 years old. There was live music and a panel including Sasakamoose, former New York Islander Chico Resch and former Detroit Red Wing John Chabot. When it was time for them to ask each other questions, Neil Sasakamoose said Resch and Chabot did most of the asking.
“They were more interested in my Dad leaving, you know, at a young age [and being] the first Indian to walk into a dressing room, ‘Like what did it feel like, like where did you sit?’,” Sasakamoose said.
Eight hundred people came to the tournament over the weekend and 24 sponsors donated enough to help cover the costs. There was a live auction with sweaters and jerseys signed by Stan Johnson and Jonathan Cheechoo.
Award winners from the tournament were Shaquille Merasty for Best Forward, Rylan Parenteau for Best Defenseman, Drew Rose for Best Goalie, and Alfie Michaud for MVP.
For next year, the plan is to have the tournament on the same weekend in April. Even more teams will be welcome.
“We want to do it again. We’re looking for as many teams as we can manage,” said Austin Ahenakew, a volunteer organizer.