Cree teen designs a line of merchandise to help fund schooling and hockey

In the six years Mariko Bercier has been playing hockey, he’s travelled all across Manitoba. Now his love for the game has taken the 13 year old to a place young players dream of.

Bercier moved to Saskatchewan in September to attend the prestigious boarding school Athol Murray College of Notre Dame.

The school is home to the Notre Dame hockey program, one of the most recognized hockey development programs in Canada.

There are currently 19 alumni playing, coaching or working in the NHL such as Vancouver Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers and St. Louis Blues wingman Jaden Schwartz, according to their website.

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Mariko Bercier and Savanna Sayese visited the school in the summer. After the visit they decided to create a logo to help fundraise. Submitted photo.

“A lot of pro people come here. So many NHLers came here. There’s better education here and way better hockey,” said Bercier from his dorm room at the school.

Bercier is from Opaskwayak and Mosakahiken Cree Nations in northern Manitoba. He is the oldest of nine kids from a blended family with his mother Savanna Sayese and his father Vincent Bercier.

His parents instilled the love of athletics at an early age.

Bercier first visited the school in 2017 for a goalie training camp.

A chance to attend the school full time came up this past summer.

“The opportunity was there for him and we wanted him to know that the support would be there from both sides of the family,” said Sayese from her home in Opaskwayak Cree Nation.

The move came with a hefty price tag to the tune of $38,000 per year for boarding, accommodations and supplies.

It was a whirlwind two months but the family was able to come up with part of the funds.

Bercier decided to create a merchandise line to help cover the remainder of the costs.

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He created a logo called M30Goalie, which incorporates his past and future. The “M” stands for his first name while the number 30 represents his jersey number while he played for The Pas Huskies AA team, and an illustration of a feather ties everything together.

“The feather is for my ancestors. My grandpa supported me lots and my kookums,” said Bercier.

The family started making t-shirts and sweaters in September. They sold out within three hours. They have done two more orders since then branching out to include youth and toddler wear as well.

Sayese says the support has been phenomenal.

“As I walk through the community and to see people wearing this logo it’s just a really great feeling about how many supporters he already has,” she said.

“We’re honoured for even someone just willing to wear his logo daily.”

A piece from the line even made it into the hands of Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear thanks to a family friend.

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A family friend gifted a M30Goalie t-shirt to Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear. Submitted photo.

Bercier says seeing other people wear his merchandise makes him feel “famous.”

But the “fame” hasn’t gotten to his head.

In conversation with APTN News Bercier made sure to thank a slew of close family and friends in helping with his success.

While it’s not always easy for a parent to let their child go, Sayese says she’s proud to see Bercier chase his dreams.

“I always say this to him, ‘home is going to be home, my boy, we’ll always be here so go out and explore and do your thing.’”

-Correction: A previous headline identified the school as a hockey academy, which was incorrect. It is an academic boarding school with a hockey program.

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