Company finds success with clothing inspired by Indigenous hockey tournaments
SASKATOON -- Smudge the Blades clothing was inspired by Indigenous hockey tournaments, says company founder Harlan Kingfisher.
He started the company last fall and now he’s pleased to see hockey fans and even some Olympic and NHL stars sporting the gear.
“Just from playing hockey in these Native tournaments I knew that there would be a market out there to launch a 'funny saying' line for hockey,” says Kingfisher.
While growing up on Sturgeon Lake First Nation, Kingfisher played in many First Nations hockey tournaments before getting selected to play junior and college hockey.
Today, he’s a power engineer in Fort Saskatchewan and coaches his son’s team. He contracts a company on Flying Dust First Nation to screen print the clothing.
Kingfisher got the idea to print some familiar and fun hockey tournament sayings on hoodies, t-shirts and hats. They include: First Nation hockey sensation, Smudge. Snipe. Celly, Hockey Kokum, Deadly Hockey Mom, Good game, Good game, Good game, Tuguye, Good game.
“The designs are just funny sayings of what you hear at the hockey rink,” he said.
The store in Muskoday is one of the smaller businesses that sell the apparel. Store employee and hockey player Travis Beachene says he identifies with the clothing.
“You know at first the elder comes in and he'll say a little prayer and he'll smudge our hockey sticks,” said Beauchene.
Clothing with Smudge the Blades written in Cree is one of the best sellers. Kingfisher says he hopes to instill pride in Indigenous culture and unite families around sports. He has plans to start a baseball clothing line in the spring.
"I was never really taught how to speak Cree and so it's a way for me to bring back our culture.”
Former Edmonton Oiler Jason Strudwick, first-ever First Nation female hockey Olympian Bridgette Lacquette and Portland Winterhawk Kishaun Gervais are supporting the brand.
“And I'm working with Brady Keeper. He's at Florida Panthers camp right now. So he has some hoodies. I sent some for him and his family,” Kingfisher said.
At Muskoday Store and Gas Bar, the clothing is selling well, says Beauchene.
"So far we've sold quite a bit of sweaters, maybe about half our inventory and we have people coming from all over the place just to buy it.”
Kingfisher donates some of the profits from the clothing to fund equipment and registration fees for Indigenous youth.
The headline of this article has been updated to reflect that Harlan Kingfisher now lives in Alberta.