Indigenous Hockey 2022: History and Players

November 10, 2022 | Jamie

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The weather's getting cooler and the hockey season has officially begun! Let's learn about Indigenous contributions made in hockey.

Hockey History

Hockey is one of the national sports of Canada, but did you know that hockey may have roots in an Indigenous sport? When the settlers arrived in the area now known as Nova Scotia in the 1600s, they saw the Mi'kmaw playing a ball game called Oochamkunutk, which translates to "a ball game played on the field and ice." Their pucks were made from cherry wood, and their hockey sticks were made of alder wood. In the winter, the Mi'kmaq skated using animal jawbones. There is still more research being done looking into the Indigenous roots of hockey.

Hockey also played a role at Indian Residential Schools. Some Indian Residential Schools had hockey teams, which would play against settler schools. According to Eugene Arcand, a Cree hockey player and Indian Residential School survivor, he did not know that home ice meant having an advantage. Student hockey players from the residential school did not get to talk with other school hockey teams. The students also had to keep their equipment on while players from other schools could remove their hockey gear in-between games. This was to keep the students from running away.

While there is still some racism experienced on the ice, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 87 to 90 talk about truth and reconciliation in sports.

Below, I've listed some Indigenous hockey players and some impacts they've had on hockey, and in some cases, on the community. I wish I could go into much more detail about these players, and list even more fantastic Indigenous hockey players over the decades, but space doesn't permit! So I recommend checking out the links embedded throughout this blog post to learn more. I've also included some biographies to check out about some well-known Indigenous hockey players.

 

Some Indigenous Hockey Players You Should Know

Brigette Lacquette (Ojibway) is the first Indigenous woman to scout for the National Hockey League (NHL). She oversees the prairies and British Columbia. She was also the first First Nations woman to play hockey for Canada in the 2018 Winter Olympics, where she won the silver medal.

 

Jocelyne Laroque (Métis) made her Olympics debut in Sochi 2014, where she won the gold medal for women’s ice hockey. She also won the silver medal at PyeongChang 2018 and her second gold medal at Beijing 2022. She also has 8 medals from the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships spanning from 2011 to 2021. Jocelyne also co-owns and is the hockey program coordinator at Stoke Strength and Conditioning. 

 

Gino Odjick (Algonquin) also known as the “Algonquin Enforcer,” was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in October of 2021, and won the Indspire Award in 2015. He played for the New York Islanders, the Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens and the Vancouver Canucks over 12 seasons beginning in 1990 - 1991. Since retiring from playing hockey, he’s worked on various Indigenous youth leadership projects.

 

Ron Delorme (Cree), also known as “Chief,” has been with the Vancouver Canucks for over 40 years. He initially joined the team as a right-winger, and after his playing career ended, he began scouting for the Canucks. He was inducted into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, and the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019.

 

Jordan Nolan (Ojibway) is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion who has recently retired from hockey. He currently works with his brother Jordan and father Ted Nolan (also former hockey players) for 3Nolans, which the three founded together in 2013. 3Nolans offers a hockey skills development camp in First Nations communities across Canada.

 

Books For Youth

Carey Price : how a First Nations kid became a superstar goaltender 

Carey Price : how a First Nations kid become a superstar goaltender by Catherine Rondina 

"Twenty years ago, Carey Price was flying hundreds of miles across the country so he could play on the nearest organized hockey team. Today, he is the highest-paid goalie in the NHL. But he's never forgotten where he started."

Journeyman : the story of NHL right-winger Jamie Leach

Journeyman : the story of NHL right-winger Jamie Leach by Anna Rosner

"Journeyman is a first-person biography of Ojibwe right-winger Jamie Leach, son of the legendary NHL superstar Reggie Leach. Follow the fascinating hockey trajectory from his childhood years watching his father play for Philadelphia Flyers, to Jamie’s first goal in the NHL."

 

Books for Adults

Call Me Indian : from the trauma of residential school to becoming the NHL's first treaty Indigenous player

Call Me Indian: from the trauma of residential school to becoming the NHL's first treaty Indigenous player by Fred Sasakamoose (Cree)

"Trailblazer. Residential school survivor. First Indigenous player in the NHL. All of these descriptions are true–but none of them tell the whole story. Fred Sasakamoose suffered abuse in a residential school for a decade before becoming one of 125 players in the most elite hockey league in the world--and has been heralded as the first Canadian Indigenous player with Treaty status in the NHL."

 

The Riverton Rifle : straight shooting on hockey and on life : my story

The Riverton Rifle: straight shooting on hockey and on life : my story by Reggie Leach (Ojibway)

"Autobiography of First Nations athlete Reggie Leach, who was a star hockey player for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s and 1980s."

All The Way : My Life on Ice

All The Way : My Life on Ice by Jordin Tootoo (Inuit) and Stephen Brunt

"All the Way tells the story of someone who has travelled far from home to realize a dream, someone who has known glory and cheering crowds, but also the demons of despair. It is the searing, honest tale of a young man who has risen to every challenge and nearly fallen short in the toughest game of all, while finding a way to draw strength from his community and heritage, and giving back to it as well."

Playing with Fire

Playing with Fire: the highest highs and lowest lows of Theo Fleury by Theo Fleury (Métis) and Kristie McLellan Day

"In Playing with Fire, Theo Fleury takes us behind the bench during his glorious days as an NHL player and talks about growing up devastatingly poor and in chaos at home. Dark personal issues haunted him, with drinking, drugs, gambling and girls ultimately derailing his Hall of Fame-calibre career."

They Call Me Chief : Warriors on Ice

They Call Me Chief : Warriors On Ice by Don Marks*

"They Call Me Chief tells the fascinating stories of native athletes who overcame tremendous obstacles to star in the National Hockey League." 

*Note about this book: some of the terminology used may be considered outdated.

Stickhandling Through the Margins : First Nations Hockey in Canada

Stickhandling Through the Margins : First Nations Hockey in Canada by Michael A. Robidoux

"With stories and observations gleaned from three years of ethnographic research, Stickhandling through the Margins: First Nations Hockey in Canada richly illustrates how hockey is played and experienced by First Nations peoples across Canada, both in isolated reserve communities and at tournaments that bring together participants from across the country."–description is from Good Minds.


Do you have another First Nations, Métis, or Inuit hockey player that you think should have been mentioned in this post? Comment below!

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