Battle of the Little Big Puck

Fred Sasakamoose (centre) dropped the puck for the third period in the Battle of the Little Big Puck. Seven-time CPRA Rodeo Announcer of the Year Joe Braniff (left) and Harry Buffalo Calf (right) took the ceremonial face-off. Photo by Kate Winquist.

In February, the legendary Battle of the Little Big Puck took place in Maple Creek, Sask. The charity fundraising event, which began in 1979, is a hockey game “pitting” the Cowboys against the Indians.

This year, the honoured guest was 82-year-old Fred Sasakamoose from Debden, Sask.,
who made his mark as the first Indian to play in the National Hockey League.

Sporting his #21 Chicago Black Hawks jersey, the trailblazer received a three minute standing ovation prior to dropping the puck for the much-anticipated face-off.

“This is a great game!” says Sasakamoose. “I’ve never seen anything like this in all my travels. It shows that times are changing and we can work together.”

The Battle features three periods of hockey. For the first two periods the players are in hockey gear. The third period begins with the pounding of the ceremonial drum at centre ice, with the Cowboys tricked out in traditional garb, while the Indian team is dressed in full regalia and war paint. It’s a game — and spectacle — like no other.

It was standing room only. Technically the Cowboys won; 11-8. But, says Warren Pewapisconias, a player on the Indian team, the real winners are “the Maple Creek Hospital Board because we raised over $6,000, the community, as well as the rest of Saskatchewan because this showcase of a game is about sportsmanship, friendship, and respect.”

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