Indigenous Success Stories

Sports and Reconciliation (87-91)

Indigenous hockey sticks gifted to 2023 World Juniors players

January 6, 2023

Lorne Julien couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have his artwork viewed by millions of people

APTN News: The World Junior Hockey Championship had some First Nations flair thanks to four artists from the Maritimes who were selected to paint hockey sticks for the event.

The opportunity to have his artwork viewed by millions of people was something Mi’kmaq artist Lorne Julien couldn’t pass up.

“It’s exciting. It’s an honor,” he said. “It’s a special time to just be part of this.”

The member of Milbrook First Nation in Nova Scotia was chosen to design a one-of-a-kind hockey stick along with New Brunswick artists Emma Hassencahl-Perley, Robin Jipjaweg Paul and Natalie Sappier (Samaqani Cocahq).

This year’s annual international tournament for under-20 hockey teams was held in Halifax and Moncton. It wrapped up Thursday night with Canada winning the gold medal game against Czechia 3-2.

Mi’kmaq artist Lorne Julien poses with hockey sticks he designed. Photo: Submitted

Hockey Canada and Mawi’Art: Wabanaki Artist Collective partnered to find artists from the host provinces as a way to showcase local Indigenous talent. Hockey sticks are customarily presented at the end of every game when one player from each team is named player of the game.

Each artist was tasked with creating 20 sticks. Julien put about 100 hours of work into painting his design, a double-curve motif with an eagle in flight.

He said the eagle is representative of love and protection, which are principles of the Seven Sacred Teachings.

His design also featured an orange heart in honor of the suspected unmarked graves at former residential schools. “I think that’s important that that’s remembered,” he said, “and I think it gives the general public a better understanding as well.”

All four artists were chosen for several reasons including their connection to hockey.

For Julien it was his great-grandfather Joseph Julien, a former chief of Milbrook, who carved hockey sticks known as “Mic-Mac” sticks.

“I know there was a big order that (former national department store) Eaton’s had had at one time, and it was 12,000 hockey sticks,” Julien recalled.