Fred Sasakamoose, one of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) first Indigenous hockey players, is in hospital with COVID-19.
According to the Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” National Hockey Championship Facebook page, 86 year old Sasakamoose was admitted to a hospital in Saskatchewan with a presumed positive Nov. 20 and the test came back positive Nov. 22.
Sasakamoose is currently in an isolation unit at the hospital and has had some fatigue and trouble breathing, according to his son Neil Sasakamoose.
In a Facebook video, Neil stressed the importance of following public health guidelines.
“It’s real, we have to be careful, we have to follow the orders of what the physicians tell us, what the professionals tell us. We have to follow them,” Neil said in the video. “No one wants to lose a family member to this. Like there’s a thousand ways to pass away but when it’s preventable, and this is preventable, we should do everything we can to prevent anyone from getting this.”
Sasakamoose played 11 games for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1954 NHL season, splitting time between the Blackhawks and the Moose Jaw Canucks of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League.
He had a long and difficult path to the NHL, which included being taken from his family’s home and sent to the St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan.
Sasakamoose testified before Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2012 about his experiences at the residential school.
Messages poured in online for the hockey pioneer with current and former NHL players such as Connor Murphy of the Chicago Blackhawks, retired NHLers Jason Simon and Cody McCormick and even the commissioner of the NHL himself, Gary Bettman sending him best wishes.
“I heard that you’re having a bit of a challenge with COVID-19, I want you to know that we’re all thinking about you, praying for you. We understand you’re in good hands and we wish you a speedy recovery, and we hope to see you soon. All the best my friend,” stated commissioner Bettman in his message.
Neil said the Sasakamoose family thanks everyone for their warm wishes and asks everyone to keep Fred in their thoughts and prayers.