A tournament that highlights the indigenous talent playing hockey welcomed a women’s division for the the first time in the competition’s history.
Ten hockey teams competed in the women’s division while 40 teams competed in the men’s division of this year’s Fred Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” National Hockey Championship in Saskatoon over the weekend.
In the women’s division, the Mistawasis Sagestrong took home the top prize, beating the Cross Lake Lady Islanders 4-3 to become the tournament’s first-ever women’s champions.
Among the team’s players was Brigette Lacquette of the Cote First Nation.
She was the first First Nations woman to play hockey for Team Canada, winning silver as of the 2018 Olympic team.
Lacquette played in the men’s division of the tournament in previous years, and said it was a privilege to get out there among other indigenous women.
“It is awesome to see the development of women’s hockey that has happened in the last five, 10 years,” Lacquette said.
“You know, it’s definitely getting faster and more skilled. It was awesome to be on the ice and to play hockey.”
The tournament is the dream-made-reality of Fred Sasakamoose of Ahtahkakoop First Nation.
His goal was to someday have an Indigenous team compete at the Olympics.
When Sasakamoose suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1950s, he was the first treaty Indigenous player in the NHL.
He served as an inspiration for Indigenous children and was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, and became a member of the Order of Canada in 2018.
Last week a new statue of Sasakamoose was unveiled in front of SaskTel Center in Saskatoon.
Marty Ross, the coach of the Canoe Lake Young Guns, said it’s a good thing to have a tournament that features Indigenous players.
“It’s very important for our community. It’s one thing we kind of work at all year,” Ross said.
“We enter in other tournaments to just try to groom ourselves and to get ready for the big one. This is the one that matters to us.”
The team won the last edition of the men’s tournament and placed as the runner-ups this year.