TORONTO – An Indigenous-owned clothing line is celebrating Indigenous hockey culture while encouraging and supporting young Indigenous athletes in the sport.
“Blade Blur” Sells a variety of sportswear and hockey gear with clever designs that bring indigenous culture and humor to the rink. The designs included slogans such as “Hockey is good medicine,” “First Nations hockey sensation” and “Kitaskov, Pihtakvatav”, which is Cree for “he shoots, he scores”.
“I had this idea about two years ago, before I launched Smudge the Blades. I just made some funny shirts that I thought would probably make people laugh. I put them on my computer and one day I just had one. decided to build a website,” Smudge the Blades founder Harlan Kingfisher told Granthshala News.
A father of four to Sturgeon Lake First Nation children in Saskatchewan, Kingfisher named his company in honor of his late grandfather, who would perform smudging ceremonies to bring the treat to his community. Following the suggestion of Kingfisher’s grandfather, smudging also became an important pre-game ritual.
“One day, I wasn’t doing well in the playoffs. He said to me, ‘Why don’t you smudge your hockey gear, smudge your stick?'” Kingfisher explained.
Kingfisher has many fond memories of growing up and playing hockey – but he also knows what it’s like to experience racism on the ice. He recalls an example when he was a junior hockey player playing for an indigenously owned team during a road game in a small town in Manitoba.
“I had never seen anything like this. The whole crowd was just cheering, shouting at you guys, spitting at you, throwing garbage. They had put a trap on us that they had to throw garbage so that garbage was thrown at us.” Don’t fall. You hear the remark, ‘Drunken Indians, get off our ice,'” said Kingfisher.
Today, Kingfisher uses its platform on social media to create awareness and raise awareness about the racism prevailing in hockey.
“I call people. I call organizations and ever since I’ve been doing this, people have messaged me and told me their stories,” he said.
When 16-year-old Keegan Brightnose was racially abused by spectators during a hockey game last month, he nearly gave up playing.
Keegan said, “It didn’t make me feel very good. I kept it to myself and I just wrote to my mom about what happened.”
Keegan’s father, Earl Brightnose, says the clothing line has created an online social community that brings more awareness to the issue.
“It created some exposure to how racism is really taking its toll in hockey,” Brightnose said.
Hockey can also be an expensive sport, as hockey gear and fees can cost thousands of dollars. A portion of Smudge the Blades’ sales are going to support Indigenous families who otherwise can’t afford to enroll their children in hockey programs.
Kingfisher says he recently reached out to a mother who was about to tell her kids that they can’t play hockey this season because of the high fees.
“I covered his hockey fees and asked him to play this year,” Kingfisher said. “I really want to pay forward to all the indigenous youth who need help.”
Kingfisher also hopes that their clothing can also educate Canadians about hockey’s indigenous roots.
Kingfisher said, “Hockey is everyone’s sport in Canada and as Indigenous peoples, we have created the Mike-Mac hockey stick. It’s in our blood, and Indigenous hockey is huge.”