Patrick (Sonny) Lightning Jr. is making a name for himself as a goalie in New York playing high school hockey. Lightning is a member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation in Hobbema and for the past two years has attended Salmon River Central High School in Fort Covington, New York.
Lightning is an exceptional student, currently he has an average of 78 per cent and his goal is to enroll in college next year in policing/law enforcement. While going to school he has been a member of the Salmon River Shamrocks varsity hockey team as their number one goalie helping to lead his team to second place in their division, he also plays varsity lacrosse.
“It’s pretty good I really liked it. It was a good experience because the competition level is high but it is not as much pressure. It’s kind of awesome because you get that experience,” said Lightning.
His mother Inez Lightning said it was a family choice for her son to play hockey in the Eastern United States. She said that they wanted him to go to a hockey program where he could get more exposure and that the Salmon River team is a renowned hockey school. The school has won the state championship 16 out of the last 24 years.
“I’m quite proud of him, when he started high school in Ponoka he had no motivation to do well in academics. At Salmon River he has to maintain 65 per cent and higher average, the athletics program is giving him an extra push,” said Inez. “Last year it was tough with him being so far, we were in constant communication but it was hard missing the games. The same goes with his dad, we wish we had a plane to fly in for every important game.”
Inez has a sister who lives on the Akwesasne reserve and last year Sonny stayed with her and this year he was billeted with a family.
Even before the school hockey season started Sonny was excelling on the ice. He was signed with the Massena Selects Ice Hawks team in the USA Hockey League. The Ice Hawks placed first winning state and competed in the Tier II under-18 championships held March 14 to 16 in Potsdam, NY. The Ice Hawks also played in the National Championships in Buffalo, NY where they finished in third place.
“It was really exciting, I didn’t know about the national tournament until we won state, I was really excited and I couldn’t wait. The atmosphere was great, they had four rinks, they had two main rinks and you could go watch Tier I hockey,” he said.
Lightning also made the Eastern Door midget team, which will attend the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Sault Ste. Marie from April 27 to May 3.
Lightning also feels that it is very important to keep his Native culture alive, competing at powwows as a junior men’s fancy dancer. Lightning has placed in the top three in several powwows and finished first at the Rama Thanksgiving powwow in 2007.
He is a very determined young man who is rich in culture and prides himself with his long hair a tradition that he encourages other youth to continue with. He has seen the effect of drugs and gangs on youth his age and encourages others to refrain from this type of behaviour.
“In order to play sports you have to have a healthy body. If you are smoking, for example, you will be coughing a lot and it will hinder your performance,” said Lightning.
“You don’t have to be cool doing drugs you can still be cool without them, you can go and play hockey and you don’t have to worry about the negative side affects of drugs while playing.”