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Lacquette takes pride in being role model for youth in Manitoba

"For these kids to be able to meet other Indigenous players and hockey players, role models... it's important."

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

Throughout her life, Brigette Lacquette has made a habit of turning adversity into positivity.

It hasn't always been easy, but the 28-year-old - who hails from the small Métis community of Mallard, Man. - has worked her way to the Olympic stage, becoming the first Indigenous woman in Canadian Olympic history to make the national women's hockey team in 2018.

That's just one example.

It also doesn't mean she never feels disappointment. It's what the two-time silver medallist at the IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship felt earlier this month when she learned the 2021 version of the event - scheduled to be played in Halifax, N.S. from May 6-16 - was cancelled.

"It was definitely a shock to get that news the last day of camp," said Lacquette. "It's devastating and very disappointing to get that after the cancellation of last year's Worlds as well."

Lacquette and her teammates remain hopeful that the IIHF will be successful in finding a new home and new dates for this year's tournament. In the short term, though, the players used each other as sounding boards for their frustrations.

"Everyone was obviously really down," said Lacquette. "We did spend some time together after the announcement and everything. It was just very tough to go through that. You can only hope for the best in hoping that we can get back on the ice."

She's worn the Canadian crest seven times since the 2009 Under-18 tournament. She was a standout in Canada's gold medal winning effort the next year, named the tournament's best defenceman, a Top 3 player on her team, and her 11 assists were the most by a defenceman in the whole tournament.

Her resume has two silvers and a bronze medal at the Worlds, an Olympic silver medal, and two Canadian Women's Hockey League titles.

As of March, she can also add Indigenous Advocate for the National Hockey League's Female Advisory Committee to that resume.

"I remember getting the email and I took a screenshot and sent it to my parents. They thought it was super awesome," Lacquette said, adding she's been in one meeting so far and expects many more to come in the following months.

"It's truly an honour to be able to be put in this position and to get on the committee, and be able to be part of those conversations and decisions."

It's an honour, for sure, but one look at the work Lacquette has done off the ice - along with her incredible achievements on it - makes it seem like a perfect fit.

She takes the position of being a role model very seriously and takes every opportunity to speak to as many Indigenous youth as she can.

"Growing up I didn't have the person that was like me in my sport. It was very tough to relate in that way," she said. "But when I go to the fly-in reserves, or I go up north, it's like 'I can relate to you guys because I also lived in an isolated community.' It's so much fun to be able to connect with the youth. I love it."

Her message resonates with those kids because of that special connection.

After all, she had to make similar decisions in her life.

"I've been to so many different reserves across Canada and settlements. Sports is something that, for myself, was my out," Lacquette said. "I didn't have a lot going on in Mallard. You could either get into the bad stuff right away, or the teenage pregnancy happens, you kind of veer off from setting goals for yourself and knowing there is more out there in the world to achieve."

So, she set goals for herself. She played on as many minor hockey teams as she possibly could, going from arena to arena across Manitoba.

"Even when I faced racism, that didn't stop me," she said. "I knew I always loved playing this game, and that's what kept me going. That's also what got me out of Mallard to see the world, and to make so many friends across the world."

Perhaps that's part of the reason she loves being involved in the Winnipeg Jets WASAC (Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre) Nights.

WASAC is a non-profit organization that focuses on leadership and mentorship skills for Indigenous children and youth through sport, recreational, and cultural programs.

Lacquette was a big fan of the red jerseys the Winnipeg Jets wore in warm-up back on Apr. 24, the third year that the team has held a WASAC Night.

She was a huge part of the event in 2020. That year, the Jets welcomed 30 Indigenous youth from remote and northern communities to watch the morning skate and the next day, they hopped on the ice at Camp Manitou with Lacquette and NHL alumni Jamie Leach and Frazer McLaren.

Lacquette was also involved with the Manitoba Moose Follow Your Dreams Day that year. She not only took part in the ceremonial faceoff, but also did a meet-and-greet with more than 200 Indigenous youth from all over Manitoba.

"The WASAC Night was so much fun. To be able to go there, drop the puck at the Moose game, then go to the Jets game, then watch the young singers sing the anthem in Cree and Ojibwe, it's super awesome to see," she said. "I didn't see that when I was a child, when I was a kid growing up, I didn't see that, and it wasn't visual. To see that now and have the opportunity for these kids to be able to meet other Indigenous players and hockey players, role models - I guess, it's very important for them."

Lacquette is eager to get back on the ice with her teammates in international competition, not only to continue showing young children in Canada what is possible - but also to try and earn Canada's first gold medal at the Worlds since 2012.

The path back to the ice may have some obstacles in the way at the present moment, but that's nothing new for Lacquette.

It only serves as another chance to look adversity in the eye and push right past it.

After all, that's the exact message she conveys to every child that wants to be in her place one day.

"Anything is possible if you set your mind to it. That's what my main goal is to share with them," she said. "To be able to go in, tell my story, they can relate. You know, like 'I have eczema too' or 'I got bullied too' or 'this is what this person called me' when they were battling racism. 

"It's showing them that they can go through those hard times, but they can also come out of those hard times."

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