Timothy "T.J." Oshie, Ojibwe, plays for the Washington Capitals professional hockey team. Photo: Sarah A.
Who was the first Native professional hockey player? An investigation of sorts
Ojibwe hockey star Timothy "T.J." Oshie made headlines this month for helping the Washington Capitals win its first-ever Stanley Cup.

But as Mohawk intellectual Doug George-Kanentiio will tell you, Oshie is not the first Native person to play hockey on a professional level. There have been standouts like Jordin Tootoo and Jonathan Cheechoo, who recently announced his retirement, on the ice for many years.

But how far back, and where, do you have to go to find the first Native professional hockey player? The New York Times takes a stab and notes that the Winnipeg Victorias in Canada won the Stanley Cup in 1901 and again in 1902 with three Metis stars on the roster: Tony Gingras and brothers Rod and Magnus Flett.

The National Hockey League, though, didn't start until 1917. That's when The Times easily found Paul Jacobs, who was Mohawk from Canada, on the roster of the Toronto Arenas.

But it's not clear whether he ever played a game since he was only on the team in 1918 and 1919. That could mean Taffy Abel, who was Ojibwe from Michigan, was the first Native player in the NHL. He was a member of two Stanley Cup teams in the 1920s, according to Wikipedia.

Abel has been inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame but it doesn't look like he's acknowledged elsewhere for being the "first." So The Times jumps to the 1930s to find Henry Maracle, another Mohawk from Canada, and then to the 1940s for Jim Jamieson, who was Cayuga from Canada and only managed to play one game in the NHL

The trail finally ends with Fred Sasakamoose, who is Cree from Canada and is considered the first "status" Indian to play professional hockey. He took the ice for the Chicago Black Hawks in the 1953-1954 season before he returned to the Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Saskatchewan, where he served as a council member and a chief.


Sasakamoose, 84, has since spent many years working with Native youth and other young Canadians, introducing them to hockey and other sports. He was recently invested in the Order of Canada, which is the nation's second-highest highest civilian honor, CBC News reported.

"The Indian people and Métis people are ready to participate in the Olympics, and put our children, our players, in sports," Sasakamoose told CBC of his efforts with youth.

Read More on the Story:
Recasting the History of Pro Hockey’s Indigenous Players (The New York Times June 25, 2018)

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Ojibwe hockey star celebrates team's historic championship victory (June 8, 2018)
Ojibwe hockey star excited for transfer to team in nation's capital (July 3, 2015)
T.J. Oshie, Ojibwe, helps lead Olympic hockey team to early win (February 18, 2014)
Doug George-Kanentiio: It's time for Native Olympic hockey (February 11, 2014)
Community in Minnesota produces Ojibwe Olympic athletes (February 5, 2014)