This month will be special for the Golden Rockets, its community, and especially four players.
Golden’s Indigenous community will be represented by the orange community jerseys the Rockets wear during their five home games.
A special touch has been added to the jerseys for Nathan Andrew, Jake Yakubowski, Draeden Bear, Levi Hall (not pictured) and recently acquired Deegan Wapass. They will have special name bars showing their Indigenous name. Andrew came up with the idea, which originated from when he played for the Okanagan Hockey Club last season and they let him have a special name bar.
“I took the opportunity to do it again this year,” said Andrew, whose Indigenous name is Big Swan. “It makes my family pretty proud to be able to have that.”
The Rockets worked collaboratively with Metis artist, Aguenus (Angela Hall), and a crest was created with a point of reflection for each symbol; the Indigenous star motif in the centre, for Indigenous people are star people; the Metis infinity symbol; inukshuks shaped to reflect a rocket; and eagle feathers demonstrating the honour it is to serve your community.
Andrew grew up in Cranbrook and is from the Aqam, a Ktunaxa Nation. The family speaks Ktunaxa – a dialect that is a dying language. He wanted to represent his name for that reason.
The Rockets representing their community with the jersey is important for Andrew and his teammates.
“It’s a big stepping point for us and I’m excited to wear a jersey like this while playing,” said Andrew.
“It shows that the Golden Rockets are aware of what’s going on in the world and since we have four Indigenous players, it’s important we show our support,” said Bear.
For Bear, who grew up in Saskatoon and his family is from Ochapowace First Nation, it’s a chance to “represent my people back home.”
“I want to make my family proud and everyone from our reserve proud,” said Bear, who speaks Plains Cree. “By wearing my Indigenous last name, I feel I would be able to do that.”
It means a lot to Bear that the Rockets are doing this and they care about them.
“They want to show their respect of what happened at the residential schools,” he said. “I feel like it’s really important to a lot of people to wear these jerseys.”
“Not many people know exactly what happened at the residential schools. I think the fact our team is wearing orange jerseys and raising awareness is good,” said Yakubowski, whose Indigenous name is Rose.
Yakubowski grew up in Saskatoon and has family from Red Pheasant Cree Nation, where they speak Plains Cree. He wanted to represent his background and having his Indigenous name on the jersey is not just to represent his family, but all Indigenous kids.
“It’s a good opportunity to be a role model for young Indigenous youth to show that they can go and play hockey,” he said.
Wapass, whose Indigenous name is Wāpās “Early Riser”, is from Big River First Nations in Saskatchewan.
Cruz Chiappa, the Rockets’ video analytics coach and trainer, said he’s heard from the team and community a lot of positive response about the jersey.
“Every jersey is individually sponsored by a company,” he said, adding that they will be auction off to raise money for the community.
Every year the money raised from the auction goes to the Rockets Community Fund and this year the Golden Rockets will also donate a proportion to the local Metis community.