Indigenous Hockey Summit – October 2023 in Tiohntià:ke

Published: 29 January 2024

In October 2023, a team of Indigenous hockey players, advocates, researchers, and change makers gathered here at McGill University in Tiohntià:ke/Montréal for a three-day Summit on Indigenous hockey. The Summit was organized by the Indigenous Hockey Research Network (IHRN), and hosted by Mike Auksi and Davina McLeod: two Indigenous hockey players and emergent researchers committed to the promotion of a more just game.

Why hockey? “Lots of reasons!” says Jordan Koch, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education at McGill. For one, hockey holds a prominent place in Canadian culture and identity, which makes it an ideal entry point for broader discussions about critical issues. For many Canadians, hockey stories help to navigate who they are and where they belong. However, for Indigenous Peoples, hockey can resonate quite differently. “For example,” says Koch, “The idea of hockey as ‘Canada’s game’ tends to erase histories of Indigenous dispossession in the name of Canadian nationalism—‘Canada’s game,’ in this sense, really refers to the game of white settler Canadians. Furthermore, hockey was used in residential schools as a tool for assimilating Indigenous Peoples into the Canadian body politic. And yet Indigenous Peoples have repurposed hockey into a site of resurgence and nation-building through the creation of Indigenous-led teams, leagues, and tournaments.” Hockey is therefore an ambivalent but potentially productive vehicle for change.

The three-day Summit explored both the past and present of Indigenous hockey, with the aim of improving future experiences for Indigenous athletes and fans. Panelists—including Truth and Reconciliation Commission Survivor Committee member Eugene Arcand and ex-NHLers John Chabot and Everett Sanipass—shed light on many pressing issues in today’s game, including anti-Indigenous racism. Panelists also spoke passionately about hockey as a site of self-expression and community building for Indigenous players and families; about making hockey more inclusive and expressive of Indigenous values; and about leveraging research toward a decolonial hockey future.

True to form, the Summit concluded with a pick-up style hockey game for all attendees at McConnell arena, followed by free tickets to the McGill RedBirds vs. UQTR men’s hockey game. An Indigenous-designed ‘Every Child Matters’ hockey stick was also gifted to McGill’s hockey program to commemorate the event and will be on-display in the Alumni Lounge.

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