Views / Opinion

Jasmine Kabatay: Cheers to the first Indigenous woman to play Olympic hockey

These athletes' successes, displayed on Olympic ice or in a Hall of Fame case, are wins for Indigenous representation at major events.

Brigette Lacquette will make hockey history as the first Indigenous woman to play for Team Canada at next month’s Winter Olympics.

John Woods / The Canadian Press

Brigette Lacquette will make hockey history as the first Indigenous woman to play for Team Canada at next month’s Winter Olympics.

I am always awed by sports, from the work that goes into each event to hearing about athletes’ personal sacrifices and stories.

More often than not, these athletes have to go through a lot to get where they are today.

That’s why it’s important players get the recognition they deserve.

Last week, the Hockey Hall of Fame honoured the Sagkeeng Oldtimers, a Manitoba hockey team made up of mostly residential school survivors that competed in tournaments in Europe, the U.S., and Canada.

Not only did they play, they excelled, winning a World Cup title in their division in 1983, according to Windspeaker News.

Oldtimers founders Walter Fontaine, who coached and played, and his wife Verna, who acted as manager and fundraiser, did everything they could to support the team.

“I felt really proud for what my parents did in spite of all the trauma they went through,” their daughter Darlene Ahmo said at the unveiling, according to Windspeaker.

“They wanted to do something awesome and not think of all the ugliness of the past.”

I’m excited the team is being recognized. It comes as more Indigenous athletes, from the old-timers to the up-and-comers, are starting to get the accolades they deserve.

Included in this is hockey player Brigette Lacquette, 25, who will make history as the first Indigenous woman to play for Team Canada at next month’s Winter Olympics.

These athletes' successes, displayed on Olympic ice or in a Hall of Fame case, are wins for Indigenous representation at major events.

What inspires me more about these stories is they continued to play regardless of the barriers they faced or hardships they endured.

In an interview with the Calgary Herald, Lacquette, from Cote First Nation in Saskatchewan, said growing up she faced bullies and racism from opposing players.

Now she plays for the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL and serves as a role model to youth, mentoring with Classroom Champions, an organization that connects kids with athletes.

But on top of all the support and love they receive from their own communities and other Canadians, both Sagkeeng Oldtimers and Lacquette don’t seem to let their achievements go to their head — instead, they harness it.

Lacquette uses her platform to inspire Indigenous youth and girls. And with the Sagkeeng Oldtimers, their team was made to bring the survivors and community members together, and bring more positivity in their community.

They have all accomplished so much while going through the obstacles many Indigenous Peoples have faced and persevered.

With the Olympics coming up in February, it will be awesome to cheer on Lacquette and the women’s hockey team, as she leaves ugliness from her past even further behind.

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