Female hockey player from Ochapowace doesn’t let discrimination get to her
- Megan Kaiswatum | June 12, 2018
A 12-year-old from the Ochapowace Nation was one of only three female hockey players on her team at this year’s Oskana Cup youth hockey tournament.
The hockey enthusiast, Delihja Sparvier, has been playing the sport since she was six-years-old. For the past few years Sparvier has competed in the yearly tournament. The Oskana Cup XIII was one of this year’s biggest Indigenous youth hockey championships which was held May 4-6 at the Co-operators Centre in Regina. Sparvier, who plays left wing forward for the Queen City Snipers, said it’s one of many tournaments she’s competed in, but playing in the Oskana Cup is different compared to playing non-Indigenous youth hockey tournaments.
“[It’s] playing against friends, playing with friends and cousins, and playing a fair game,” said Sparvier.
Even though playing hockey is her passion, she has faced various challenges on the ice. In non-Indigenous hockey tournaments, as well as Regina’s youth hockey league games, Sparvier is often the lone female player on her team and has experienced harassment both due to gender and racism from other teams. And it’s not just the players she’s dealing with.
“When you're playing against [non-Indigenous people] … the refs [are] use to reffing [non-Indigenous] teams,” said Sparvier. “When First Nations teams come... they [will] be unfair because it's First Nations players... they try give us more penalties [so] that the [non-Indigenous] teams can win.”
However, Sparvier says it doesn’t bother her – in fact, it makes her play harder.
She says she looks up to and identifies with Team Canada Hockey Olympian Brigette Lacquette because they both had their dreams to play hockey since they were young. Sparvier is determined to follow the same path.
“I want to make the Canada team,” she said.
Although her team in this year’s Oskana Cup tournament didn’t place, Sparvier still played with passion and plans to play in the tournament next year.
This year’s Oskana Cup had 53 youth teams competing from four various provinces across Canada. Shelley M. Lavallee, President of Oskana Minor Hockey Development Inc. and the lead tournament organizer, said the championships are good every year.
“Why we're interested in doing this (is) to try help our own youth because our children, our Indigenous youth in hockey, they need an opportunity to play at a higher level.” she said. “We put this on because we enjoy hockey and we want the kids to have a good experience.”