Twenty-eight teams squared off in Sasakamoose invitational tourney
- EFN Staff | June 04, 2018
The third annual Fred Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” Invitational Hockey Tournament kicked off with an opening ceremony to honour one of the biggest Indigenous hockey legends – Mr. Sasakamoose himself.
Sasakamoose, from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, is well known as Canada’s first Indigenous hockey person to play in the NHL. All his life, he dedicated his time in sports whether if he was playing, coaching, training or mentoring – he continuously leaves an everlasting impact in budding and long-time hockey players lives.
“The name itself I’m proud to be part of this…I’ve always dreamed about the future for our people,” said Sasakamoose. “It’s great hockey…there some NHL players that in this tournament.”
His son, Neil Sasakamoose, who is the chairperson of the event, wanted to honour the former Chicago Blackhawk’s hockey player by naming a tournament after him and inviting teams to compete each year.
“In 2015, we wanted to figure out how to honour him and we thought ‘why don’t we have a contact tournament and honour him through hockey’,” said Neil. “This year, we wanted to create a national championship for Indigenous talent. We ended up with 28 teams. The difference with this tournament is there is no entry fees but it’s invitational only. We guarantee all the prize money through corporate sponsors, which the total prize is $42,500.”
Teams travelled from near and far to compete in the tournament. A team from Waswanipi in northern Quebec travelled the furthest. Big NHL names such as LA Kings Dwight King also played in the tournament. The event is a First Nations tournament and players on teams have to be from that community and each team was allowed three player imports.
The excellence of Indigenous hockey talent is what drew a huge crowd of spectators. Each year, the Fred Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” Invitational Hockey Tournament grows bigger and has picked up its pace, said Sasakamoose.
“It’s come a long way and it picked up so fast. Teams come in from the north and it’s just unbelievable,” said Sasakamoose. “It shows our younger people there is a future for them instead of drugs and alcohol.”
The Sasakamoose family and tournament organizers hope next year’s tournament will be just as fun and bigger.
“The name itself came into focus and much involved with the youth, I want to continue that journey for as long as I live,” said Sasakamoose.
The champions of this year’s tournament are the Norway House Bruins, coming in second place is Cross Lake Islanders, third place is Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation STARS and Canoe Lake Young Guns placed fourth. Judd Black Water from Norway House was named the MVP, the top forward went to Konrad McKay from Cross Lake Islanders, Nathan Bruyere was named Best Defense from Cross Lake, Rene Hunter from Cross Lake earned the Most Sportsmanlike player spot and Norway House team won Best Goalie.