Brigette Lacquette breaks barriers as first Aboriginal woman to sign for NHL team with Chicago Blackhawks

EDMONTON, Alta .– When Brigette Lacquette first heard about the Chicago Blackhawks, she didn’t think the message was real.

It was, and it came at a perfect time.

Lacquette became the first Aboriginal woman to recruit to an NHL team when she was hired by the Blackhawks this year.

Making history is familiar to Lacquette, who became the first First Nations woman to play hockey for Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The defender won a silver medal but was excluded from the round. Canada’s Olympic training for 2022.

“I had to go through some things mentally and emotionally throughout the summer with everything that is going on in life,” Lacquette told The Canadian Press.

“This job has kept me busy and I have something to look forward to and something that I want to be good at, improve myself every day and give it my all. It turns out I really love this job.”

The 29-year-old Ojibwa of Mallard, Man., Also competed at three world championships in six years with the National Women’s Team, winning two silver medals and one bronze.

Lacquette saw a seemingly random post on his Facebook page in May from Blackhawks assistant general manager Ryan Stewart, who oversees the career assessment.

“I had to google it because, to be honest, I didn’t think it was real,” Lacquette said.

The Blackhawks were looking to replenish their testing staff after a COVID-19 contraction, Stewart said.

“We were looking for more diverse opinions … just more opinions, more different people to bring in here,” he said. “So by doing a lot of research and doing different things, his name just popped up and I kind of dove deeper into it.

“Everyone I’ve reached out to, from former college coaches to teammates, has been delighted with his hockey sense and his integrity as a person. For me, if you have a hockey sense as a player, that translates very well into a scout. “

Lacquette was still waiting at that point if she would be invited to try out for the 2022 Olympic team.

“I told him I would let him know next week. I thought, “This is actually super cool, how crazy”, but my mind was focused on hockey, ”she said.

“I was not centralized, then I inquired about the job. I spoke to superiors and they offered me a job as a professional recruiter. They told me my job was basically to watch everyone. kids who are drafted into the NHL playing in the Western Hockey League. ”

The territory of Lacquette has recently extended from the three Prairie provinces to British Columbia.

“October was definitely a struggle. I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Lacquette. “I was excited to drive to Lethbridge and watch a hockey game, but then I was like, ‘What am I looking for?

“I’ve been playing hockey my whole life so I watched the game and broke down some aspects of it and the skills of the players and wrote them down, and wrote reports about them, the more I look at them, the more I notice that they are improving or not improving. “

Stewart said: “I was amazed at her reports, and she knows the details that help translate a player to a professional level and obviously bigger than that at the NHL level. She has grabbed that kind of range very quickly. here.”

Knowing the strain on sports teams and Indigenous logos and names, Lacquette said she had done her homework on the Chicago logo and Black Hawk, a leader of the Thunder Clan who resisted the takeover of land owned by his people.

“They honor Black Hawk which is the logo,” Lacquette said. “They do a lot of land recce and good work with First Nations communities. They have stuff on their website that they share if people don’t get it.”

Lacquette consulted with his mother, Anita, from Côte First Nation in Saskatchewan and his father, Terance, from O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation in Manitoba about the hiring.

“My dad was excited. He said, ‘This job is something that a lot of people work their whole lives for and don’t get,” Lacquette said. “As for the logo, they understand. I explained it to them.

“I see both sides of it. There are obviously a lot of people who don’t support him. There was this girl who really made a big deal about me taking a job and not supporting me. not.”

Lacquette was the best qualified person for the job, said Stewart.

“She has a great hockey mind, period,” he said. “There’s a long line of people lining up to be scouts, but we are handpicking and we’re very selective about who might be a scout for us.”

Lacquette joined a small group of NHL recruiters alongside Cammi Granato (Seattle Kraken), Blake Bolden (Los Angeles Kings) and Meghan Hunter (Blackhawks).

Lacquette compared employment notes via direct messages with Bolden, who became the first black female NHL scout in 2020. Lacquette broke that barrier for Indigenous women.

“It’s cool that I’m the first one, but I feel like a lot of those kinds of jobs and opportunities are going to open up for a lot of other NHL teams,” said Lacquette. “I mean, the time is right.”

Lacquette still plays for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association.

She scouted the Canadian Junior Boys’ Selection Camp and played for the PWHPA against the Canadian Women in the same arena on a December weekend in Calgary.

She doesn’t know what her future playing career will be.

“I’m taking it day by day. I don’t think too far,” Lacquette said. “It always feels good to train and skate with the PWHPA.

“I don’t really know where I’m going to go. Right now I’m focused on my job. It gives me a new goal.”