From residential school to the NHL: the remarkable story of Fred Sasakamoose


Fred Sasakamoose, a residential school survivor and the first First Nations NHL hockey player, sits in the Vancouver Giants dressing room where the WHL hockey team unveiled First Nations tribute jerseys in Vancouver, Sept. 19, 2013.

There weren’t many bright moments in the nine years Fred Sasakamoose suffered through residential school, but one came six years in, when he was 12.

Up until then, he had quietly endured the physical, emotional and sexual abuse, pushing aside the thoughts of exacting revenge that so often came to mind. He diligently completed his daily chores, making the beds, scrubbing the floors and doing farm work that included chopping firewood and milking two cows daily.

Then one day, he was told he had “earned” a pair of ice skates. He beamed at the memory.

He and his schoolmates fashioned hockey sticks out of plywood, pucks out of tree branches and tape. For the three more years he spent at St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Duck Lake, Sask., hockey games became his salvation.

“I wanted to be a hockey player,” said Mr. Sasakamoose, who turns 80 this year. “I wanted to be a star, better than anybody else. I wanted to be – and I got to be.”

He went on to become the first Canadian aboriginal player in the National Hockey League, playing for the Chicago Blackhawks in 1953-1954.

Continue reading at The Globe and Mail.

One year ago today: Canada wins Olympic hockey gold


Canada defeats USA in the gold medal hockey game -- the last game of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Vancouver police estimate there were between 100,000 and 150,000 people on the streets. Bus service had to be suspended.

I was asked to find Americans for a story, so I set about looking for people looking miserable. These two Californians were the first I came upon. Guy on the left said he lit his cigarette as soon as Canada scored. Guy on the right said no more than, "It was an amazing game, but-- fuck."

We won on Feb. 28, in the afternoon. This photo was taken at 12:30 a.m. the next day.