StarPhoenix Cuthand: Tony Cote Winter Video games in Saskatoon April 7, 2018

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This week Saskatoon saw an influx of 3,800 young athletes; together with their coaches, supervisors, parents and supporters for the Tony Cote Winter Games 2018.

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Doug Cuthand Saskatoon StarPhoenix South East Treaty 4 Tribal Council team celebrates a basket against the Onion Lake Cree Nation team during a basketball game at the Tony Cote First Nations Winter Games at Mount Royal Collegiate in Saskatoon, SK on Wednesday, April 4, 2018. Photo by Liam Richards /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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This week the Tony Cote Winter Games 2018 took place in Saskatoon. This marked the first time the Games had the name of Chief Tony Cote, who led the Cote First Nation in 1974 when the first provincial Games were held.

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It was Tony’s dream to create a place for young First Nations athletes to compete in their sport at the provincial level. The games were designed for teenagers and the first games were for teenagers under the age of 14.

Up until that point, the sport in the Indian country was mainly intended for adults. Regional baseball, soccer, and hockey tournaments were held, but they were communities that competed against each other and they were adult-oriented.

In 1974, Chief Cote wore the Games to mark the centenary of the signing of contract number four, and the Saskatchewan Indian Summer Games were born. The Winter Games soon followed.

Today no reserve community can host the Winter Games. There just aren’t enough facilities to accommodate all of the sports and teams that crop up. This week Saskatoon saw an influx of 3,800 young athletes; Together with their coaches, accompanying persons, parents and supporters, there were around 10,000 people, which was a real shot in the arm for the economy of Saskatoon.

Onion Lake Cree Nation player Graham Pahthyn grabs a rebound against the South East Treaty 4 Tribal Council team during a basketball game at the Tony Cote First Nations Winter Games at Mount Royal Collegiate in Saskatoon, SK on Wednesday April 4, 2018. Onion Lake Cree Nation player Graham Pahthyn grabs a rebound against the South East Treaty 4 Tribal Council team during a basketball game at the Tony Cote First Nations Winter Games at Mount Royal Collegiate in Saskatoon, SK on Wednesday April 4, 2018. Photo by Liam Richards /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

One of the traditions of the Games is that successful athletes are present as role models for the youth. This year three role models took part: basketball player Michael Linklater, volleyball player Savannah Walking Bear and Olympian as well as member of the Canadian women’s hockey team Brigette Lacquette were present as official ambassadors for the games.

Michael Linklater is a well-known basketball player who is one of the best 3X3 players in Canada. Savanah Walking Bear was an outstanding player for the Lakeland College Rustlers at Lloydminster. Brigette Lacquette played for the Canadian women’s ice hockey team at the last Olympic Games.

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Of the role models, Brigette was a fan favorite. She attended the Games from Tuesday to Thursday, acted as a role model and ambassador, conducted interviews with the media, visited schools and workshops and distributed medals to the winners.

Brigette’s mother was from the Cote First Nation and grew up in Mallard, Manitoba, near the city of Dauphin. She excelled in sports, and her parents supported her dream of playing hockey at the elite level. She attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where she took second place in team defense with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs and was appointed to the rookie team of the WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association).

In 2016, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and moved to Calgary, where she played for the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League). That year the Inferno won the Clarkson Cup, which is the equivalent of the women’s Stanley Cup.

Michael Linklater Michael Linklater Photo by Liam Richards /Canadian press

In 2013 Brigette was a member of the Canadian national team, which won gold in the Four Nations Cup. She was part of the national team for the Olympic Games in Sochi, but did not make it to the final list; However, she played for Team Canada and won silver in the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) women’s championship in 2015.

Canada lost a heartbreaker in extra time to the Americans and the team took it hard. When the medals were presented, Jocelyne Larocque, the other Aboriginal player on the team, and Brigette Lacquette stood side by side in the line-up. Jocelyne was so dismayed at the loss that she took her medal away after it was presented to her. It was a controversial move and the media focused on it. What they did not see was that Jocelyne took off her medal, the medal was placed around Brigette’s neck and she thanked the presenter. Two very different reactions, but it showed the drive and character of the two.

Brigette now lives in Calgary and will be back at hockey camp within a month preparing for the world finals. In four years she plans to play on the Olympic team for Canada. This time it’s about gold.

There is a saying in sport that nobody remembers who finished second. This time around, we know Brigette Lacquette and Team Canada may have finished second on the scoreboard, but in our hearts they were first.

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