Mohawk community members celebrated this weekend as their local hockey team, the Akwesasne Stars, took on the NHL Native Alumni Pro hockey team led by Stanley Cup winner Reggie Leach from the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 3rd Annual NHL Native Alumni game was put on by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Tehotiiennawakon Department on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at the A'nowara'ko:wa Arena on Kawehno:ke / Cornwall Island.
Other members on the NHL Alumni team include Rick Nattress of the Montréal Canadiens, Chris Brant of the Hartford Whalers, Jason Simon of the New Jersey Devils and Akwesasne’s own Keegan Thomas, from St. Lawrence University, and Oakley Thomas from the Akwesasne Jr. B Wolves, among others.
“It was a great honor to be here,” said NHL alumni Reggie Leach. “This was something special, all of the NHL players here are part of the NHL Native Alumni. We put together a team like this to show the community and to show the kids there are a lot more professional NHL players who are native and have had the opportunity to be a leader in their communities.”
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Communications Director Brendan White shared his enthusiasm for the events success.
“This has been a very fantastic and wonderful day. What makes it better is seen professional hockey players come back to serve as inspirations for young native players. These players serve as proof that following your dreams and pursuits does pay off. I encourage them to continue serving as inspiration, not just for Akwesasne youth but for all native youth.”
Event organizer and director of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Jim Ransom says the annual event is an effort to cover the costs of an arena, but it is also for the benefit of the community.
The NHL Native Alumni Pro hockey game was a terrific experience. Our best hockey players were able to play against these NHL alumni and overall, the success is overwhelming. We haven’t had a chance to calculate how much we made, but it will help with the overall costs of running on arena. The best part was that this was an event the whole family could enjoy.
“Being here over the last couple days has been a very warm feeling,” Leach told ICTMN.
Playing the game and having a banquet was truly unbelievable in terms of the warm welcome we received.
Leach also said that before his game on Saturday, he was able to visit with the Akwesasne community.
“I have also been here a few days. I was fortunate to speak with all of the amazing young people. I love this community because they focus on the youth. Everything they do for the youth is unbelievable. The teachers are incredible this has probably been one of the best trips I have had in all of my travels.”
Part of his community tour included a book signing of his newest biographical book entitled, “The Riverton Rifle.”
“My book is based on the seven grandfather teachings of the Ojibwe culture; it is all about learning and recovering from the mistakes you make as a young person. It is about learning and respect and love. That is where I am today in my life. Native and first Nations youth are our future. One of the biggest mistakes we make is we keep bringing up the negative stuff let’s talk about the positive stuff.”
Though he was once called The Riverton Rifle for his explosively fast slapshot, he admits his shot might not reach the speeds it once did.
“The rifle is more like a popgun now. (laughs) But I did have fun out there, considering it’s my first game this year. Thank goodness I didn’t have to play another period. I am 65 years old now, I enjoy myself. One lady in the community asked why I was playing and said I was old. I told her, ‘I am 65, I feel good and I’m doing what I love. I am going to keep doing it till I can’t do it anymore.”
Photo Courtesy Joe Francis
The roster of players was as follows:
NHL Native Alumni Pro Hockey Team Roster
#25 Chris Brant Hartford Whalers
#38 Jason Simon New Jersey Devils
#42 Alfie Michaud Vancouver Canuck (Goalie)
#28 Dan Frawley Chicago Black Hawks
#6 Rick Nattress Montreal Canadians
#21 Dennis Maruk California Golden Seals/ Washington Capitals
#20 Jamie Leach Pittsburg Penguins
#27 Reggie Leach Philadelphia Flyers
#12 Chris Simon Colorado Avalanche
#8 Clayton Norris Calgary Flames
#84 Oakley Thomas Akwesasne Jr. B Wolves
#21 Keegan Thomas St. Lawrence University
Stan Jonathan Coach Boston Bruins
Charlotte McDonald Trainer Akwesasne/Kahnwake/ Montreal/Boston
Akwesasne All Stars Team
#12 Scott Thompson
#10 Carey Terrance
#7 Cody Thompson
#25 Ted Cook
#44 Casey Swamp
#9 Nate Sunday
#24 Owen Swamp
#11 Phil Boots
#88 Wallace Thompson
#16 Ian Boots
#20 Randy Connors
#4 Mark Thomas
Adam Thompson (Goalie)
Taylor Smoke (Goalie)
Mac Thomas Coach
Jeff Carter Coach
Follow A&E, Sports and Pow Wows Editor Vincent Schilling on Twitter @VinceSchilling.