First Indigenous NHLer, Fred Sasakamoose, hospitalized with presumed COVID-19

Fred Sasakamoose, who became the first Indigenous person to play in the NHL, is battling presumed COVID-19 in a Saskatchewan hospital, according to multiple reports on social media.

His family first reported the news on his organization’s Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” National Hockey Championship Facebook page on Friday evening.

“The 86 year old has had symptoms for a couple days, was admitted today at a local Hospital and is presumed positive and is now waiting for test results,” reads the post.

“We are asking people, the hockey community and fans to think about Fred at this time. Chief Thunderstick needs your prayers so he can recover quickly.”

According to other reports on Twitter, Sasakamoose is in the ICU.

“Fred Sasakamoose lives in the North Central region – he is the great uncle of my nephews. High cases and no masking directives have effects. He is a wonderful man and an important elder. All of Saskatchewan should be praying for him tonight,” tweeted one user.

At the age of 20, Sasakamoose made history by skating onto the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens, becoming the first Indigenous person to play in the NHL after earning a spot on the roster of the Chicago Blackhawks.

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“Only 125 hockey players and six teams, and I was one of them,” the now-86-year-old told Global News in 2018.

In 2017, he was appointed to the Order of Canada.

Sasakamoose grew up in Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation. He was removed from his First Nations home in northern Saskatchewan and taken 500 kilometres away from his parents to attend St. Michael’s Residential School in Duck Lake.

–With files from Claire Hannah. 

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