Fred Sasakamoose, one of NHL's first Indigenous players, dies after COVID-19 diagnosis
SASKATOON -- Fred Sasakamoose, the first Indigenous hockey player from Saskatchewan to make it to the NHL, died Tuesday after falling ill with COVID-19, his son said.
“He was a grassroots guy. He wasn't he wasn't a suit and tie. He didn't belong there. He knew where he belonged. He belonged with his people on the reserve. He belonged with local people in small towns," Neil Sasakamoose said in a video update posted on Facebook Tuesday afternoon.
Sasakamoose had been admitted to hospital for treatment for COVID-19 last week. Neil Sasakamoose said he died around 3 p.m. Tuesday.
"He was able to survive about (five days after) going into the hospital and just the COVID virus did so much damage into his lungs, he just couldn't keep responding," he said.
"When I talked to him, I asked him how he is feeling, if he was scared. He said, 'I'm not scared.' He said 'I'm ready to go. If you gotta go, I'm gonna go.' I said 'You know what, Dad? If you're tired, you go. You go and don't worry about us over here.'"
Sasakamoose is from Big River First Nation and lived on on Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation.
“He had some good, good strengths about that old guy,” Neil Sasakamoose said.
“He believed in his in his culture, his language, his people. He believed in us getting along with non-native people, races around the world. He believed in a lot of good qualities of what we should be striving for.”
Sasakamoose had been admitted to hospital for treatment for COVID-19.
In the video he asked people to comply with health orders and listen to political leaders to protect others during the wait for a COVID-19 vaccine.
“And if you have any sincerity towards other people, just keep quiet about the way you talk about anti-masking and that. I lost a father now too. We lose a grandparent and a parent just because of stubbornness and silliness and selfishness.”