Siksika Nation partnered with the Calgary Hitmen to host the team’s pre-season opening game at the Siksika Deerfoot Sportsplex on Sept. 18.
The event was a rematch of the “Every Child Matters” game which was originally played in February 2020, which also featured the Calgary Hitmen versus the Red Deer Rebels.
The rematch follows a recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Siksika Nation and the Calgary Hitmen, through which the partners committed to growing the “Every Child Matters” game.
“It’s just [a] great opportunity for us to partner with an organization that’s best in class and benefits our players, our organization [and] our fanbase by this relationship,” said Rob Kerr, manager of business operations for the Calgary Hitmen.
“The benefits for us have been amazing. First of all, our young players who were very proud of the opportunity to get on the ice were very proud of the education opportunities they have off the ice, but also to be able to grow them as young men and expose them to different cultures and different people.”
The aim of the partnership is to create a new normal, or benchmark, for the promotion of cultural awareness in sporting events, with the hope of expanding the power and reach which events such as goodwill hockey games can have in local communities.
“It’s in its infancy. Where it’s going to go is, it’s going to allow the Calgary Hitmen to partner with Siksika and do some incredible things in the community and help to make some significant change in the lives of youth, both indigenous [and] non-indigenous. We can all benefit from this,” said Kerr.
“I think we’re also going to become kind of the standard bearers for these types of relationships… The MOU that we signed with Siksika is the first of its kind, but it’s so important and so beneficial to us in so many ways.”
The game itself followed an opportunity granted to the Hitmen to attend a local ranch and learn about Siksika culture, as well as to meet a trio of white buffalo and to learn what they symbolize.
Prior to the puck drop, a ceremony was held on the ice which consisted of the bestowing of gifts, a performance by traditional drummers and proper acknowledgements.
“I think having the team coming out here and having the kids in the community witness that, I think was a big inspiration. And I always say, it’s more than just a hockey game,” said Tyler White, CEO of Siksika Health Services.
White explained he is excited to see how the partnership between Siksika Nation and the Calgary Hitmen develops.
Kerr added he believes the Hitmen will serve as “standard bearers” who will set an example for other teams to follow their lead to develop similar partnerships.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times