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Native Sun News: Hockey Hall of Fame referee Oliver 'Butchy' Mousseau passes on

Butchy Mousseau makes a call during a game. Photo courtesy Remember Butchy / Facebook

Remembering Hockey Hall of Famer Butchy Mousseau
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Staff Writer

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –– On March 25, 2016, Hockey Hall of Fame referee, Oliver “Butch” Mousseau (Oglala Lakota), died one week after sustaining head injuries during a fall on the ice as he was preparing to referee a game in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Butch Mousseau was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003 for being the first Native American referee in the National Hockey League.

It was during the pregame warm-ups of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Final Five semifinal game on the evening of Friday, March 18 at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. when Mousseau, an avid ice skater since the age of 7, fell while skating backwards landing head-first on the ice.

Beloved father, son and brother Butch Mousseau laid on the ice as a small pool of blood formed on the ice. Minutes later, Mousseau was in the emergency room.

This is how Oliver “Butch” Mousseau passed away, but his family would like to remember how he lived. Native Sun News interviewed his mother, Mary Mousseau.

Like many families in the 1960’s, poverty, struggle and federal assimilation policies affected the lives of tribal members as more and more children were being born into urban-Indian communities.

“Butch grew up in a home, where his dad and I had just moved off the reservation. We were in Oregon for six years. That’s where he was born. We went home for a year and moved to Colorado when he was two,” said Mary.

While living in Colorado, the Mousseau family were financially-stressed but managed to support their family and provide what little they could. This is when Butchy was introduced to hockey.

“He began school there. We were given passes to a recreation center and that’s where he discovered the ice rink. It was love at first sight,” Mary said with a gleam in her eyes.

“He would tell me, ‘Mama, I wanna ice skate.’ So we went to garage sales looking for skates and found out they were bringing in old equipment to buy. So we got him a jersey and a pair of skates,” she says of his first time skating in Boulder, Colo. “He was 7. He fell in love. He made the team they had there. They were just these long jerseys down to his knees. But he thought he was so cool.”

Despite minimal means and time, Butchy’s parents supported their son. “The team would have ice time. But it was always at 5:30 or 6 o’clock in the morning. I would remember him getting me up, ‘Mama, get up! We get ice time this morning. I’ll clean off the car (from snow)’ and I’d be like, couldn’t you just play basketball?”

Butch’s determination to succeed began at seven years old on them frozen streets of Boulder. “He’d go out and clean the snow off and he’d even start it up. I would go out to the car and there he would be sitting with his little helmet on and his stick. I remember saying, ‘Oh my god, I hope this is just a phase,’” Mary said smiling.

“We’d get done and go home and he’d be so happy. We’d make a beeline for the shower because I had to be to work and he had to be to school. Half the time he wouldn’t shower. He’d just go to school stink and that’s how he got started,” she said of hockey becoming the center of both of their worlds.

Read the rest of the story on the all new Native Sun News website: Remembering Hockey Hall of Famer Butchy Mousseau

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