Kian Littlechild, 17, of Ermineskin Cree Nation, is now committed to attend the Indigenous Sports Academy (ISA) and play for the ISA Eagles’ inaugural season.
ISA is a high-performance hockey academy based out of Saskatoon, Sask. that focuses on providing Indigenous youth with a unique academic and athletic experience.
“It’s pretty cool to be playing with other elite athletes,” said Littlechild, who is a denfencemen on the team.
He says his goal is to focus is on developing into a better player.
“I’m dedicated to hockey and focused,” said Littlechild.
Last year, Kian played for the Ponoka Jr. B Stampeders at 16 years of age.
An opportunity was given last year to play for Ponoka Jr. B Stampeders after their coach witnessed his potential as a developing professional hockey player.
“He saw potential in Kian. He asked him to play on the his team,” said Kevin Littlechild, Kian’s father.
Due to COVID-19, last year’s season was cancelled.
Kevin also played hockey in his youth and the passion passed down, from his dad. A love of the sport that he encourages his son to excel at.
The Littlechild family are proud of Kian and have supported him in his development as a hockey player.
Kevin says his son was playing hockey from a very young age.
“As a child we bought him an little hockey stick. He would be playing hockey around the house,” said Kevin.
Kian’s grandfather also built him a ice rink in the back of the Littlechild property.
Every winter Kian would be practising his skills on the ice rink and every year he just kept getting better.
“After years of practise, he developed so, so fast,” said Kevin.
Kevin explains at seven years old his son’s played for Red Deer Rustlers AAA spring hockey.
That experience helped build up his son’s confidence on and off the ice.
“My son was so shy back then and hockey really helped his confidence,” said Littlechild.
Kian has come a long way developing into a promising young player.
At the age of nine he played for Edmonton Oil Kings.
Kian also played pee wee AA in Wetaskiwin and Camrose bantam AA.
At the age 15, he played for Camrose midget AA, and then with the Ponoka Jr. B Stampeders at 16.
Despite his dedication and support from his family, the Littlechild family has encountered racism at some hockey rinks by other non-Indigenous hockey families.
Kevin says racism, inequality and high costs of hockey fees are barriers faced by Indigenous players and families.
Kian also has faced discrimination on the ice but he says his focus is on the game.
“We know racism exists in the world. It is far too common here in Canada, and people of colour experience racism daily. Unfortunately, racism and inequality have occurred in the hockey community. We recognize that and understand that our organization needs to do more to combat acts of injustice and ensure a safe space for everyone.”
Kevin says that his son is focused on working out and practising his skills rather than going out and partying.
“There is lots of Indigenous talent but they are often not given opportunities,” said Kevin.
He say that’s hockey politics. Racism within hockey has given advantages to support non-indigenous players.
The Littlechilds have sacrificed to support Kian.
Kevin explains the fees are $24,000 a year for private hockey school.
The Littlechild, like many Hockey families, face many challenges to provide resources for their kids to continue to participate in the game they love.
“We host fundraisers, look for sponsorships and sell raffle tickets to pay for the fees,” said Littlechild.
He says the family has also hosted golf tournament to help pay for some of the hockey fees as well.
This investment by his family has not gone unnoticed by Kian.
“It’s amazing what my family does. A lot of sacrifices,” he said.
Kian says his current goal is to play junior hockey.