A tournament that showcases Indigenous talent playing hockey hosted a women’s division for 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 the top prize by beating the Cross Lake Lady Islanders 4-3 to become the tournament’s first-ever women’s champions.
Among the players on the team was Brigette Lacquette of Cote First Nation.
She was the first First Nations woman to play hockey for Team Canada, winning the 2018 Olympic team silver medal.
Lacquette has played in the men’s division of the tournament in previous years and said it was a privilege to be among other Aboriginal women.
“It’s great to see the development of women’s hockey that’s happened over the last five or 10 years,” Lacquette said.
“You know, it definitely gets faster and more skillful. It was great to be on the ice and play hockey.
The tournament is the dream come true of Fred Sasakamoose of the Ahtahkakoop First Nation.
His goal was to one day see an Aboriginal team compete in the Olympics.
When Sasakamoose adapted for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1950s, he was the first Native treaty player in the NHL.
He inspired Indigenous children and was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2018.
Last week, a new statue of Sasakamoose was unveiled outside the SaskTel Center in Saskatoon.
Canoe Lake Young Guns coach Marty Ross said it was good to have a tournament featuring Indigenous players.
“It’s very important to our community. It’s something we work on all year,” Ross said.
“We go to other tournaments to try and prepare and prepare for the big tournament. That’s the one that matters to us.”
The team won the last edition of the men’s tournament and placed second this year.