The Province

Hockey tale of love, hate

First Nations product Lacquette discovered both early on


PYEONGCHAN­G — As far back as she can remember, Brigette Lacquette was pushing her father, Terrence, to put her into organized hockey.

The only hockey rink in tiny Mallard, Man., near the Waterhen First Nations reserve, was the one Terrence built in the family yard.

Organized hockey meant several long drives per week over snowy, windblown gravel roads, to the closest indoor rink in Winnipegos­is.

But at the age of five, Brigette was already on a mission.

“I had to beg my dad to put me into hockey and once he saw how much I loved it and how determined I was, he had to put me in,” Brigette says.

It didn’t take long for both father and daughter to realize she was very good. As she grew older, she needed to travel farther to play the game and get the kind of competitio­n she required.

Brigette and Terrence made trips to Winnipeg or Brandon to play in tournament­s and that’s when the wide-eyed young defenceman encountere­d something she hadn’t expected.


“That’s when I first started to face racism,” the 25-yearold says. “I was bullied when I was younger. I had a skin condition and that was pretty tough on my confidence.”

The racism came from all sides — opponents and teammates alike, fans in the stands, parents of other players.

There were times when the temptation to quit was there but Terrence wasn’t about to let a few words get in the way of his daughter’s promising career.

“To have my dad there with me made it OK,” Lacquette says. “Thinking back to that moment, the first time I faced it, it was crazy to me. I had never experience­d it and it caught me off guard.

“My dad told me just to beat them on the ice and focus on myself. Those were the words that I’ve lived by.”

Those words have taken her a long way. On Sunday, Lacquette will become the first First Nations player to ever suit up for Canada’s women’s hockey team at the Olympics.

“It’s truly an honour,” Lacquette says. “I’m super excited to represent my First Nations people and my family. I’ve had some obstacles to go through to get to where I am today.”

Lacquette gets emotional just talking about the subject. It’s hard for anyone to make it to this level, considerab­ly harder for someone from a remote First Nations community of 120 people. Mallard is about four hours northwest of Winnipeg and

I was bullied when I was younger. I had a skin condition andthatwas pretty tough on my confidence. Brigette Laquette

an hour north of Dauphin, Man.

There have only been a handful of Canadian Indigenous athletes at the winter Olympics over the years and even fewer who primarily identify as being First Nations.

In Lacquette’s case, her First Nations heritage was both a roadblock and a driving force. The game of hockey was her vehicle.

“I found hockey and sports were always kind of my out,” Lacquette says. “I was a tom boy growing up so I played every sport possible, but hockey was kind of my thing and it made me feel like I was in a place where I could escape from everything.”

Standing on the ice, paired on defence with assistant captain Jocelyne Larocque on Sunday, Lacquette admits she will be thinking of her family, the ones who pushed her to persevere.

Terrence will be there, as will her mother, Anita. Back home, sister Tara and brother Taren — Tara played hockey at the University of Manitoba, Taren plays in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League — will be keeping a close eye.

“My parents are super pumped and I’m excited for them,” Brigette says. “They were like ‘Wow, you are at the Olympics’ but I feel like we all achieved this dream together and I’m so glad they are going to be here too.

“It was a total family effort. My brother, my sister, my parents and extended family as well. My uncles helped a lot too, driving me to practice when my parents couldn’t.

“This was just my path to get here and they were all a part of it.”

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Brigette Lacquette (second from left) poses yesterday with Bailey Bram (17), Natalie Spooner and Genevieve Lacasse.
GETTY IMAGES Brigette Lacquette (second from left) poses yesterday with Bailey Bram (17), Natalie Spooner and Genevieve Lacasse.
 ?? TED WYMAN ??

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