Fredrick Sasakamoose was a Canadian professional ice hockey player who was born in 1933. He is the 2nd oldest of 11 children, 5 of whom survived into adulthood. As treaty Indians, the family was registered under the Indian Act (Encyclopedia, 2017). He was the first Canadian indigenous player in the national hockey league and the 1st national player who had treaty status. In 1953, he was considered to be the most valuable player in the junior Western Canada Junior Hockey League when he was playing for the Moose Jaw Canucks, whereby he scored over 30 goals in 33 games between 1953 and 1954.
He later on and made his debut in the NHL for the Chicago Black Hawks in 1954. During this period, there were only six NHL teams and Sasakamoose was among the 125 players (Encyclopedia, 2017). Sasakamoose played with the Blackhawks for 10 games during the rest of the 1953–1954 season. The Ice hockey skills that Sasakamoose were as a result of the help he got from a Priest in Montreal and who later on became the Sports director at the Indian residential school. The priest pushed Frederick to enhance/horn his skills and develop an extraordinary left handed shot.
When he retired from playing ice hockey, Sasakamoose became a band councilor in his home reserve and later on became a chief for five years. He has been widely involved in the expansion of sports programs among the indigenous children. Since 1961, he utilized his fame to create opportunities for youth in sports that included ice hockey, long-distance running and field, soccer and basketball (Howard 2009, p, 37). In 2002, Fred was honored by the Blackhawks at a home game. He was enlisted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame-builders section. He was recognized for achievements and his contribution by both the Assembly of First Nation and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN). He was among the founding members of the Northern Indian Hockey League (Encyclopedia, 2017).
Achievements of Fredrick Sasakamoose
During his junior hockey years, Sasakamoose played for the Moose Jaw Canucks of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League (WCJHL). He played centre whereby he impressed the fans in the 2,000-seat Moose Jaw Arena. He worked very hard on his hockey skills and which enabled him to develop his speed, on-ice control and hard shot. During his time at the Moose Jaw Canucks, Sasakamoose managed to score 31 goals in 34 games in the 1953–54 season (Malenstyn, 2005). Owing to his exceptional performance, he was named Most Valuable Player in the WCJHL. A ceremony was held in his honor in Edmonton Gardens, whereby he received a peace pipe and head dress to honor him.
Sasakamoose was recognized for unique achievements and the contributions he made by the Assembly of First Nations and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, plus other societal and sporting companies. In 1994, Sasakamoose was among the first athletes to be enlisted into the Saskatchewan 1st Nations Sports Hall of Fame. He got enlisted in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and enlisted in 2012 in Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame. He has also been enlisted into the Prince Albert Hall of Fame and the Canadian Native Hockey Hall of Fame (Malenstyn, 2005).
Back in 2011, Fred got a prestigious National Aboriginal Achievement Award. Besides this, he received an FSIN Circle of Honor Award and a Meadow Lake Wall of Fame Award (Malenstyn, 2005). His other achievement and which was important to him since child hood was to be extensively involved in the development of sports programs more so among the indigenous children (Coakley and Donnelly, 2009, p, 134).
Challenges faced by Sasakamoose
His childhood was full of challenges since he lost six siblings to small pox. The other challenge relates to the fact that being an aboriginal, Sasakamoose faced a lot of racism as a young boy and even during his career as an ice hockey player (Jackson, Scherer and Martyn, 2011, p, 116). Been the odd one out in a team of ‘white’ players, Fred at times felt the odd one out and at times he was segregated and looked down upon by his fellow players. The aboriginal were left out in literally every sport and those that took part in any sport, were oftenly discriminated against in terms of not been given the chance to play (Pauls, 2014). They were oftenly viewed as lacking the capacity or the skills to play any sport Sasakamoose was able to overcome this issue by honing his skills to a point whereby he become the most valuable player of his hockey team.
Sasakamoose impact on the social, cultural, political or economic change in Canadian society
At a societal level, after he retired from competitive hockey, Fred Sasakamoose used to do some farming and hunted from his home base at Sandy Lake (Thompson, 2004). However, he never forgot his love of hockey and belief in the power that sport has when it comes to improving the lives of the society. It was owing to his firm belief that as from 1961 onward, Fred used his fame to create more opportunities for the youths in sports such as hockey, long-distance running, track and field, soccer and basketball (Nicholson, 2010). Besides this, Sasakamoose was among the founding members of the Northern Indian Hockey League. He has also been involved in several other initiatives, such as the Saskatchewan Indian Summer, Saskatoon’s All Nations Hockey School and Fred Sasakamoose All Star Hockey Week- multi-racial hockey camp. All this initiatives were intended to create opportunities not only for the youths, but also for the minority groups.
With regards to cultural contributions, Fred managed to break the cultural barrier and become the first Aboriginal to play Ice Hockey at a professional level (Darnell, Nakamura, & Joseph, 2012). This achievement by Fred was meant to inform and inspire other minority groups that they too can take part in any sporting activity. It was also meant to inform the whites the minority groups too are talent if well utilized can contribute to the success of any sporting activity (Pauls, 2014).
With regards to political contribution, Fred was a board member and which enabled him to use his fame to advocate for development of sporting activities among the youths and the minority groups (Robidoux, 2013, p, 33). He used his fame to urge various political leaders to focus on the growth, expansion and increased expenditure of sports.
Fred Sasakamoose is an iconic figure in Canada and who has contributed greatly to the development of sport within the Canadian society. Despite the numerous challenges that he faced with regards to the death of his fellow siblings and racial segregation, he kept marching on to such a point that he was enlisted in several Hockey Hall of Fame and been considered as a valuable player.
Darnell, S. C., Nakamura, Y., & Joseph, J. (2012). Race and sport in Canada: Intersecting inequalities. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.
Encyclopedia, T. C. (2017). Fred Sasakamoose. Retrieved from The Canadian Encyclopedia: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/fred-sasakamoose/
Howard L. Nixon II,(2009) “Growing up with Hockey in Canada,” International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 11, no. 1, 37
Jay Coakley and Peter Donnelly, (2009.)Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies
, Canadian ed.(Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 117-120, 130-135
Pauls, K. (2014). Icing racism in hockey: Players speak out. Retrieved from CBCNews: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/icing-racism-in-hockey-players-speak-out-1.2831319
Malenstyn, Ken (2005). Chiefs and Champions – Fred Sasakamoose. Big Red Barn Entertainment/Full Regalia Products.
Matthew Nicholson, R. H. (2010). Participation in Sport: International Policy Perspectives. New York: Routledge.
Michael A. Robidoux, (2013) “The Subaltern Framework of Aboriginal Hockey: Gnoseology and Thinking along the Borders, “in Putting it on Ice, Volume I: Hockey and Cultural Identities, ed. Colin D. Howell, (Halifax, NS: St. Mary’s University, 29-33
Steve Jackson, Jay Scherer and Scott Martyn, (2011) “Sport and the Media,” in Canadian Sport Sociology, ed. Jane Crossman (Toronto: Thomson-Nelson, 116
Thompson, C. (2004). Saskatchewan first nations: Lives past and present. Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Center, Univ. of Regina