Cowboys and Cree gamers face off in fortieth version of the Battle of the Little Massive Puck | CBC Information

Cowboys and Cree gamers face off in fortieth version of the Battle of the Little Massive Puck | CBC Information
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Lots of of individuals will jam right into a hockey rink in Maple Creek, Sask., on Saturday evening to observe rodeo cowboys face off towards their Cree neighbours in a long-standing charity hockey recreation dubbed the “Battle of the Little Massive Puck.”

It is the fortieth version of what the city close to the Alberta border calls “an epic hockey recreation” between members of the Nekaneet First Nation, situated simply south of Maple Creek, and native cowboys who’re present or former rodeo rivals.

Within the third interval, gamers commerce their hockey gear for conventional put on. The cowboys play of their chaps, cowboy hats, plaid shirts and, typically, even spurs on their skates. The First Nations gamers put on headdresses, animal disguise and face paint. The referees are RCMP officers who turn into their pink serge.

“We’re simply neighbours. That is all we actually are,” stated Nekaneet Chief Alvin Francis, who performed within the first recreation in 1979 and continued on till he hung up his skates about 10 years in the past.

The Nekaneet First Nation’s gamers rejoice on ice in the course of the Battle of the Little Massive Puck in Maple Creek, Sask., in February 2020. (Kate Winquist/Maple Creek Information)

He stated outsiders might elevate an eyebrow on the groups calling themselves “Cowboys” and “Indians,” however he believes individuals who take the time to study in regards to the group — and the historical past and spirit of the sport — come to comprehend it is about mutual respect, unity and friendship.

“I perceive it is politically incorrect … however they think about themselves cowboys and we think about ourselves the previous time period of ‘Indians,’ which in the present day is First Nations, proper? In order that’s the way in which we take a look at it,” Francis instructed CBC Information. “We will chuckle at one another and make jokes with one another — simply to be neighbours — as a result of that is the way in which the world is meant to be. That is how we see it.”

Yearly, the sport raises hundreds of {dollars} for the native well being centre, youth actions or individuals in want. This yr, a part of the proceeds will assist Sandy Cooper, a teenage bronco rider who was paralyzed at a recent rodeo.

So how did all of it start?

It was 1978. Three associates stopped for a beer on a scorching summer season day.

Tom Reardon, now 75, hatched the plan with one other native cowboy, Nick Demchenko, and their buddy, Raymond Anderson, a member of the Nekaneet First Nation.

“It took multiple beer to plan it,” joked Reardon. “All we had been doing was planning a enjoyable Sunday afternoon. We weren’t visionaries or something like that.”

A photo from behind the hockey bench shows players with cowboy hats and a referee wearing RCMP red serge.
The Cowboy hockey staff beat the Nekaneet staff 14-11 in 2020. Nobody is aware of who’s profitable the four-decade collection, however gamers say it is fairly evenly matched. (Kate Winquist/Maple Creek Information)

A man with a white beard and cowboy hat, wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, holds a hockey stick and skates on ice, next to a Cree man in a traditional beaded shirt.
The Battle of the Little Massive Puck was began in 1979 by a bunch of Indigenous and non-Indigenous associates from Nekaneet First Nation and Maple Creek, Sask.. (Kate Winquist/Maple Creek Information)

Reardon got here up with the sport’s title, Battle of the Little Massive Puck, impressed by the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

“I went into the toilet on the bar, there, and whereas I used to be there, that entered my thoughts. I got here out and Nick and Raymond had a mouthful of beer after I stated that, and it splattered everywhere in the desk.”

The cowboys and Cree gamers confronted off of their first recreation in January 1979, elevating $180 for the native hospital, then staged a rematch in 1980.

“It was tied. Every staff had received a recreation. We simply thought, ‘Properly, that is good,’ ” stated Reardon.

Dale Mosquito, a Cree elder, wears a hockey helmet and an animal-hide jacket that has tassels and beads.
Dale Mosquito has performed in virtually the entire video games since 1979. By day, the Cree elder and horseman helps Indigenous ladies reconnect with their tradition on the Okimaw Ohci Therapeutic Lodge, situated on Nekaneet First Nation land. (Marcus Day/Maple Creek Information)

Just a few years later, some group members determined to resurrect the thought. They printed tickets and turned it right into a group occasion that has flourished for many years.

“The aim of it truly is the fellowship,” stated Reardon. “It is a enjoyable time!”

A way of group

For some, the sport has developed a deeper that means and symbolism.

The Nekaneet First Nation has a singular historical past in southwest Saskatchewan. Within the late 1800s, many First Nations had been pushed out of the Cypress Hills and moved onto reserves in different components of the province. However one chief — Chief Nekaneet — refused to go.

His individuals stayed within the space with out reserve land or federal funding, made associates with the settlers, farmed and realized to rodeo. The Nekaneet First Nation was granted reserve standing in 1913, however these relationships carried on.

As we speak, the Battle of the Little Massive Puck displays that historical past.

A hockey player in traditional wear from his Cree culture carries the puck while another player in traditional cowboy attire chases him on ice.
A participant from Nekaneet First Nation carries the puck within the third interval of the Battle of the Little Massive Puck in February 2020. The groups take the sport severely, though the spirit of the occasion is one in every of friendship and enjoyable. (Marcus Day/Maple Creek Information)

“Era on era, that is handed down. That data and that respect is handed down, proper from the start. You do not see that in different communities,” stated Maple Creek Mayor Michelle McKenzie.

The 51-year-old lady remembers going to the sport when she was 14. On the time, she was a bit uncertain of the place she slot in as a Métis woman locally. The hockey recreation helped her discover a sense of belonging, she stated.

“It did not matter who you had been or what you had been or the pores and skin color you had been, you had been nonetheless included in a part of the group. So that basically hits dwelling for myself, with the ability to work out the place I belong,” stated McKenzie.

A woman holds a cellphone to take a selfie with two RCMP officers dressed in red serge.
RCMP officers referee the charity hockey recreation and alter into their pink serge for the third interval. (Marcus Day/Maple Creek Information)

Elder Larry Oakes will strap on his skates for Saturday’s recreation, simply as he has for nearly all the opposite video games. The 63-year-old former chief of Nekaneet First Nation stated everybody performs onerous, though it does not actually matter who wins.

“To be able to cope with one thing like racism or discrimination, individuals must be doing one thing. It is not simply one thing that you just simply write about or discuss. You higher be doing one thing. That is one thing that we will say we’re doing collectively,” he stated.

Within the closing minute of the hockey recreation, all of the gamers will flood onto the ice collectively, because the standing-room-only crowd cheers.

The Cree elder says, “It is a celebration.”

A man from Nekaneet First Nation wears a traditional Cree garment with animal hide, tassels, beads, a hat with feathers, and black and white face paint, as well as hockey gloves.
Derek Pahtayken from Nekaneet First Nation wears a standard Cree garment with animal disguise, tassels and beads, alongside along with his hockey gloves and skates, to compete within the Battle of the Little Massive Puck. (Kate Winquist/Maple Creek Information)

Spectators watch a charity hockey game from inside Maple Creek community rink.
Lots of of spectators prove yearly to observe the charity hockey recreation and lift cash for native causes. (Kate Winquist/Maple Creek Information)

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