September 26, 2021
It was a history making Saturday at the Dryden Memorial Arena.
The GM Ice Dogs hosted Canada’s first ever Truth and Reconciliation Game.
The organization decided to host the game on direction from the Canadian Junior Hockey League to make Truth and Reconciliation a priority.
The goal is to use hockey as a platform to right the wrongs of the past and that we can come together and lead the healing process but as well to be proud of the work that we’ve put into reconciliation.
The night was also about each of us taking time to reflect on past actions taken against our First Peoples, and to use this personal reflection as the impetus for change in each of our lives.
Following a special and historic 30-minute ceremony, the puck dropped between the Ice Dogs and Thunder Bay North Stars.
Fans were expecting an offensive show from these two high powered teams but that took a backseat to stingy defence, diving break-up’s and two hot goalies.
It didn’t look that way to start as Raj Sangha opened the scoring 3:44 into the opening frame.
Sangha accepted a pass from Hunter Foreshew just inside the blueline and fired a laser just below the crossbar and past a screened Jordan Belley.
For Foreshew that was his sixth assist in four games.
After that both teams settled in and put on a defensive clinic, including some highlight reel stops from Jordan Belley and Conner Lemieux.
It stayed tied until late in the second period when the Ice Dogs would even things.
With Anthony Kuzenko in the box for Thunder Bay and Cameron Ware for Dryden GM, Kale Hancock won a key defensive faceoff, raced down ice, stole the puck from a scrum along the boards in the offensive zone and darted out in front undeterred, sliding the puck through the legs of Conner Lemieux with just 12 seconds to play.
That was Hancock’s first SIJHL goal.
The third went back and forth, with Dryden GM having the best chances.
The Ice Dogs had an opportunity to end things late when Nolan Desjardins was assessed a four-minute penalty for a high stick on Rylen Kleist with just over four minutes to play.
Dryden GM recorded four shots and a post but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Things opened up in overtime with 3-on-3 play, with the two heavyweights trading punches on end-to-end rushes.
With 1:38 to play, Raj Sangha found a seam in the slot and cashed in on his second shot opportunity to win the game for the North Stars.
William Demkiw and Nicholas Dittrich were credited with assists.
The 20-year-old Sangha has been the early story in the SIJHL with four goals and two assists in four games.
The win capped a successful and perfect three game trip away from the Fort William Gardens.
The announced attendance was 500.
The main highlight and the purpose of the day was Truth and Reconciliation.
A special event was held at the Centre in Dryden in the afternoon with guests of honour former NHLers and Stanley Cup winners Reggie and Jamie Leach.
The two were also part of a special pre-game ceremony before the game started.
The Little Feather Drummers opened the event welcoming players and dignitaries on the ice.
That was followed by speeches from Eagle Lake Chief Arnold Gardner, Dryden Councillor and Working Circle Co-Chair Shayne MacKinnon, SIJHL Commissioner Darrin Nicholas and Truth and Reconciliation Game Chair Natasha Lovenuk.
The Ice Dogs also honoured former Indigenous, Metis and Inuit players from Eagle Lake First Nation and Wabigoon Lake Ojiwbay Nation. (Trevor Kavanaugh, Tim Kavanaugh, Curtis Barker, Sheldon Adams, Matthew Pitchenese, and Troy Williams).
Reggie Leach stated, “I think it’s very important of what Dryden’s doing bringing back a lot of their First Nations players and recognizing them for what they did for the community over the years. What’s happening with our kids across the country is something that we have to bring out in the open. We just can’t just talk about it for a month or two, it has to be brought up and we have to educate people.”
Reggie added, “I think it is very important for what is going on right now with our First Nations players, players of colour. It should all start at the grassroots and work its way up from young kids starting hockey and showing the kids that there is no place for racism in hockey, there is no place for racism in this world as far as I’m concerned. For myself growing up in Riverton, Manitoba in a Metis community, I really didn’t know anything about racism until I became a junior hockey player in Flin Flon and playing (games) in Winnipeg. That was probably one of the worst racist towns I’ve ever been in when I was playing junior hockey and those are things that just got to stop. You know we’re not going away. We’ve been here for hundreds of years. This is the thing about First Nations people, we don’t quit, we keep on going and it seems like we are getting stronger and stronger every year.”
He credited the NHL for what it’s doing to combat racism and applauded the CJHL for its Reconciliation efforts, stressing he hopes to see it carry on to Minor Hockey.
Jamie Leach talked about the Truth and Reconciliation game itself stating, “I think it’s very important. I used to coach on Saugeen First Nation when I was Coach/GM for the Southeast Blades and when all the bodies were started to be discovered and I hear a stat that Saugeen FIrst Nation was actually one of the biggest Residential Schools in the country and I worked there for two years. I lived in that community for two years. So, it kind of got back to me about the truth of what happened. So, I think it is huge. I think we have to educate people about what happend in the past. A lot of people think we can erase our past, well as we all know that doesn’t happen. So, for me the ‘Truth’ part of this whole initiative is huge. They are both huge. Let’s start maybe learning about this in schools and then we learn from our mistakes from the past.”
He stressed this is something that we just can’t sweep under the carpet.
“Initiatives like this I think is again education of people and let’s learn more about our First Nations players, about our players of colour that are facing these kind of obstacles. It’s not something we should do over a short period of time. I think that it is something that we always have to be aware of.”
- Jordan Belley (Dryden GM) 51 saves
- Conner Lemieux (Thunder Bay North Stars) 42 saves
- Raj Sanga (Thunder Bay North Stars) 2 goals
Red Lake Miners (1-2) at Dryden GM Ice Dogs (2-1-1) Friday, October 1
Thunder Bay North Stars (3-1) at Fort Frances Lakers (0-2) Friday, October 1