How Fred Sasakamoose came to be known as 'Chief Thunderstick'
SASKATOON -- The hockey world lost a legend on Tuesday when Fred Sasakamoose died after being hospitalized for COVID-19. Sasakamoose was one of the first Indigenous athletes to play in the NHL and spent much of his life inspiring others to pursue the game he loved.
In a 2017 interview with CTV Saskatoon's Jeff Rogstad (transcribed below), Sasakamoose explained how he came to be known as "Chief Thunderstick" while playing in hockey in British Columbia during the late 50s.
They were in that Pacific Coast League and in about (my) third or the fourth year (with the team), they called me over from the Kamloops band and they said "I'm going to celebrate you in life."
So they all went up to this mountain. And I was watching them, me and my wife, and the horses and then they walked up and they wanted to make smoke.
So it took them about an hour and a half to get up there, but quite a while, and then they went and made smoke signals.
"Call all the nations," said the Okanagan. "Be able to celebrate the calling of Chief Thunderstick."
Apparently, I did have a good shot and they said "Thunderstick" and that's (the name) they made.
That was a very good name and I thought it was wonderful.
And that night (at the arena) it was so huge. A lot of people, it was about a thousand drums, they were all singing in the arena on that ice.
You know that you could see the fans, using all these drums and they were singing.
It was wonderful to see that. When you hear the drums and it made a beat and then it gives you that excitement, you know, that you're very special person, and that a Native , an Indian — you know, made it in this world.
It was a tremendous feeling. I'll never forget it.